Forwards coach Simon Easterby is hoping to see a different animal when Ireland take to the field in their final Pool A clash with Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday.
Despite a very strong performance in their opening win over Scotland in Yokohama, Ireland have produced stuttering displays which resulted in a loss to Japan and an unconvincing bonus-point win over Russia in Kobe.
A bonus-point win against Samoa will guarantee Ireland a quarter-final berth while a win should see them into the last eight unless some unexpected results occur elsewhere.
With Ireland having a long lead-in to this weekend’s clash and with a full complement of players to choose from, Easterby is hoping to see a different “animal” take to the field in green.
“This week feels different,” Easterby began.
“After Russia, we had a couple of days off and the players had a chance to refresh and recharge their batteries, step away from the rugby for a bit. Yesterday and today, training has been good.
“We’ll hopefully find a different animal on Saturday. But Samoa won’t just roll over and allow us to do that – we’ve seen how tough they can be in large parts of their games and that presents a challenge in itself.”
The only main injury concern for Ireland ahead of the weekend is Jordi Murphy. The Ulster back-row sustained a rib injury on his first appearance for Ireland at this World Cup in the clash with Russia but Easterby hopes that he will train fully on Thursday to put himself in contention.
“Yeah – I think it was only Jordi (Murphy) who has missed out on training and he hopes to train on Thursday, so we’re in pretty good shape at this stage. Jordi has done really well to recover and he has done a bit of running today and yesterday.”
“A win, first and foremost” is what Easterby is looking for on Saturday but he’s also hoping to see Ireland’s best performance of the competition so far so to put them in good stead ahead of their quarter-final.
“Well, a win would be first and foremost. I think there are certain elements in our game against Russia that we’d like to think we could have done better – but we have to be prepared to deal with a real physical Samoan side, a side that have shown in parts to be really good.
“They’ll want to finish the tournament on a high and they’ll feel like maybe they haven’t quite hit their straps – as we feel we maybe haven’t quite hit ours, probably since the Scotland game and maybe the first 20 minutes of the Japan game.
“So there’s so much to play for. Obviously, there’s the potential for us of a World Cup quarter-final to play for and we’re just thinking about getting our house in order and making sure that we perform to our best. We have to deal with the physical, abrasive and very talented Samoan team to do that.”