Rugby Ireland reaches RWC quarterfinals with 47-5 win over Samoa

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Referee Nic Berry shows a yellow card to Samoa’s Seilala Lam, second left, during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium between Ireland and Samoa, in Fukuoka, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — A seven-try, 47-5 win over Samoa secured Ireland’s place in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, removing any doubt about its progression to the knockout stages.

One major unknown remains: will it be defending champion New Zealand or South Africa next. The answer to that, at least for now, is as variable as the weather.

The destructive typhoon that was hitting Japan’s main island while Ireland was beating Samoa down south in Fukuoka forced Saturday’s two other games to be canceled, and cast serious doubt over the chances of Japan and Scotland getting to play in Yokohama on Sunday. That decision will wait until morning.

Ireland’s bonus-point win, achieved despite being a player down for more than half the game, means Scotland has to beat Japan to have any chance of advancing.

Ireland moved atop Pool A with 16 points, two more than Japan and six clear of Scotland. Canceled games are logged as 0-0 ties and both teams are awarded two competition points, enough for Japan to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time.

There were plenty of permutations heading into the last weekend of the group stage, so Ireland needed to ensure it controlled its own quarterfinal destiny. The bonus point was wrapped up before halftime, with flyhalf Johnny Sexton crossing for two tries.

”I really liked the start. I think we’ve started really well in all four games and haven’t continued it,” Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said. ”Today we did,”

But they had to play more than 50 minutes with 14 men after center Bundee Aki became the first Ireland player sent off at a World Cup.

”Tactically we were relatively solid when we lost Bundee,” Schmidt said. ”The forwards muscled up well and had to work hard.”

Aki, who is of Samoan descent, was red carded in the 29th minute for a dangerous high tackle on Ulupano Seuteni, leading with his shoulder in the flyhalf’s face.

Both head coaches considered it a fair tackle from Bundee, who risks being ruled out of the quarterfinals under World Rugby’s crackdown on high tackles.

”It’s all split-second stuff. We’ll see what the judiciary decide. But once it’s a red card you sense a loss of control over what happens next, no matter what you present,” Schmidt said. ”I certainly feel for Bundee, he’s pretty devastated that any further participation is potentially at risk.”

Samoa’s head coach Steve Jackson threw his weight behind Bundee getting reprieved.

”I hope no further sanction comes to him. People don’t go out there to make head contact,” Jackson said. ”There are more concussions that come from tackles around the knee, and people who get kneed in the head. Was their malice? No. He only had two or three meters to make a decision.”

It took the tournament tally for reds to a record-extending seven.

But it made little difference to the contest, such was Ireland’s domination in the forwards allied to the quick-thinking of Sexton and his halves partner Conor Murray.

The score was 21-5 when Aki was sent off – Ireland’s tries coming from hooker Rory Best, prop Tadhg Furlong and Sexton – and 26 unanswered points followed.

”It’s important to keep your composure. We felt we were in a good rhythm before the red card and you have to increase your intensity,” B

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