Joey Carbery was carted off with an ankle injury just over a month before the start of the Rugby World Cup as Ireland eased to a 29-10 victory over Italy at the Aviva Stadium.

The fly-half had been hugely impressive in Dublin on Saturday, scoring his team's opening try and controlling the game with ball in hand and the boot before he was forced off in pain with damage to his left ankle sustained at the bottom of a ruck.

Carbery looked emotional as he was taken off early in the second half, with Jack Carty coming on to replace Johnny Sexton's understudy.

Dave Kearney, winning his first cap since 2017, was also among the try-scorers as he staked his claim for a seat on the plane to Japan, and fellow wing Andrew Conway touched down in a man-of-the-match display.

Chris Farrell also caught the eye with Andy Farrell watching on as stand-in coach, while Jordi Murphy and Kieran Marmion crossed after the break.

Tries from Maxime Mbanda and Carlo Canna had put Italy in front during the first half and they caused problems with their kicking game, but Ireland were worthy winners over Conor O'Shea's men.

Lock Jean Kleyn made his presence felt and fellow Ireland debutant Mike Haley was given a 20-minute run out at full-back 42 days before Ireland face Scotland in their Pool A opener in Yokohama.

The main concern for Ireland will be the extent of the injury suffered by playmaker Carbery.

Steve Hansen slammed his New Zealand side for playing "dumb footy" after Australia consigned them to a 47-26 Bledisloe Cup drubbing in Perth on Saturday.

The Wallabies eased to a rare win over their trans-Tasman rivals in a high-scoring contest at Optus Stadium, where Scott Barrett was sent off by referee Jerome Garces in the first half after being adjudged to have shoulder charged Michael Hooper.

Australia outscored the world champions by six tries to four to go top of the Rugby Championship table ahead of second-placed South Africa's clash with Argentina later in the day.

The All Blacks will slip off the top of the world rankings if Wales beat England on Sunday and head coach Hansen was not impressed with their showing in Western Australia.

Hansen said: "I'm obviously disappointed. Australia played particularly well and deserved the win. They were the best side on the day.

"The red card didn't help us, but we didn't help ourselves either. Our discipline was poor in the first half.

"There were numerous occasions when we got offside when we didn't need to.

"It was dumb footy and we've got to be smarter than that.

"Our changing shed is very disappointed because of how we performed and that's how it should be. Australia gave us a lesson in what to do when you have a side down by one man.

"At the same time, I'm extremely proud of the way they hung in. Australia wanted to play footy, they wanted to play fast. In the end we couldn't cover the extra space."

Ruaridh McConnochie will have to wait a little longer for his England debut after a hip injury forced him out against Wales.

The former Sevens star had been set to make his Test bow on the right wing in Sunday's Rugby World Cup warm-up after just a single season in 15-a-side action.

But McConnochie is among three players to miss out with ailments, making room for Joe Cokanasiga, Jonathan Joseph and Lewis Ludlam to come into the team.

Cokanasiga replaces club colleague McConnochie on the wing, while fellow Bath team-mate Joseph - who had not been named in the 23 - plays at outside centre due to Henry Slade's knee problem.

Sam Underhill, another Bath man, has a troublesome toe and makes way, with Tom Curry switching to openside flanker and Ludlam playing blindside.

Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi have joined the matchday squad as replacements.

Revised England XV: Elliot Daly, Joe Cokanasiga, Jonathan Joseph, Piers Francis, Anthony Watson, George Ford (captain), Willi Heinz; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jack Singleton, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs, Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi.

Australia captain Michael Hooper and coach Michael Cheika are confident Tolu Latu will be able to keep his cool when the Wallabies take on New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks head into the first of two Bledisloe Cup matches a point behind Rugby Championship leaders South Africa, who face Argentina in their last game of the shortened tournament.

Australia were well beaten in their opening outing against South Africa but rallied to claim a win over Argentina last time out.

Latu featured in the 16-10 win over Los Pumas and is in line to play again in Perth on Saturday.

New Zealand targeted Latu in a Test in Japan in October 2018, with the hooker cautioned after he clashed with Codie Taylor and shoved the All Black in the face.

The Waratahs man was also suspended for six weeks during the Super Rugby season and convicted of drink driving in June.

But Hooper has faith in Latu's renewed sense of discipline and believes the 26-year-old will repay the belief shown in him by Cheika.

"I don't know if they are going to employ that tactic," Hooper said when asked if the All Blacks may target Latu once more.

"Tolu has grown as a player and as a person a lot in the last 12 months, and he is playing really good rugby. That usually takes away from the other stuff."

Cheika added: "His attitude has been excellent and against Argentina there was many times where he was on the ball and the ref called him off the ball and he got straight off it.

"I think that shows he's starting to understand that he's got skill but he's got to know when to use it and when not to."

One week after meeting in Perth, Australia and New Zealand will go head to head again in Auckland as their World Cup preparations continue.

Kieran Read says New Zealand have no concerns that they could be knocked off the top of the rankings this weekend ahead of a blockbuster showdown with Australia.

The All Blacks head into the Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth on Saturday knowing a defeat at Optus Stadium will open the door for Wales to become the top-ranked side in the world.

A win for the Six Nations champions over England on Sunday and a loss for Steve Hansen's side would take Warren Gatland's men to number one.

Captain Read stated that the world champions have not given any thought to the possibility they could be knocked off the top as they prepare for another battle with their fierce trans-Tasman rivals.

The back-row said: "It's not even part of our equation really, to be honest.

"We turn up here to win the game. We'll try and do that again tomorrow. We know it won’t be easy and it never is over here. We’ll put in our best performance."

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies but Read is expecting a big challenge.

"They’ve definitely had the fire in their bellies the last few years." he added.

"We know they will certainly have that again tomorrow night, so we can't just rest on what we've done over those years. It's important we reset and make sure we play as well as we can.

"These games you can't rely on your skills. It's about your mental fortitude and how you turn up and how you want to be physical. It's going to be important for us how we do that tomorrow."

Ruaridh McConnochie and Willi Heinz have been handed England debuts, while Alun Wyn Jones will become Wales' most capped player in the Rugby World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham on Sunday.

Versatile Bath back McConnochie has played only season as a professional in the 15-a-side format but will start on the right wing against the Grand Slam-winners a year after ending his sevens career.

Heinz is to make his Test bow at the age of 32 and the New Zealand-born scrum-half has also been named as a vice-captain alongside Sam Underhill, with George Ford skippering the side.

Anthony Watson gets the nod on the left wing for what will be his first Test appearance since March 2018 after recovering from a serious Achilles injury.

Jack Singleton, Lewis Ludlam and Joe Marchant are set to make their debuts off the bench for Eddie Jones' men.

Wales skipper Jones will make a record 135th Test appearance and a 126th for his country in an experienced team.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe again partners Gareth Davies, with Dan Biggar having to settle for a place on the bench.

 

England team: Elliot Daly, Ruaridh McConnochie, Henry Slade, Piers Francis, Anthony Watson, George Ford (captain), Willi Heinz; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jack Singleton, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Ben Youngs, Joe Marchant, Joe Cokanasiga.

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain) Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Shingler, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin.

New Zealand will be expected to continue their dominance of Australia and Argentina are eyeing back-to-back wins over South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks' hopes of pulling off a clean sweep in the tournament were ended when they were last month held to a 16-16 draw by South Africa, who are a win away from clinching the title.

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies heading into the Bledisloe Cup showdown in Perth on Saturday.

Argentina entertain the Springboks in Salta on the same day after losing 16-10 against Michael Cheika's men in round two.

Take a look at the pick of the Opta stats ahead of round three.

 

Australia v New Zealand 

- New Zealand have won their last six Rugby Championship games against Australia on the bounce, despite having trailed at half-time in two of the last three encounters.

- This will be the first rugby Test played at Optus Stadium. The Wallabies are undefeated in their last six games played in Western Australia.

- New Zealand have won 11 of their last 12 Tests away from home. The only loss in that span came against Ireland in Dublin last November.

- Cheika's side Australia are chasing back-to-back wins in the competition for the first time since 2016, when they defeated South Africa 23-17 and Argentina 36-20.

- World champions New Zealand have failed to score more than two tries in four of their last five Test matches, this after a run of 12 consecutive matches in which they scored four or more times.

- Australia have the best line-out success rate (89 per cent) of any team in this year's Rugby Championship 2019, nine percentage points higher than the All Blacks, who have the lowest rate.

 

Argentina v South Africa

- The Pumas will be on the hunt for consecutive wins against South Africa for the first time after a 32-19 win in their last encounter.

- Two of the previous three games between Argentina and South Africa at Estadio Ernesto Maltearena have been decided by a margin of just two points.

- South Africa's past seven Tests on the road have all been decided by a single-figure margin; the Springboks' results have been evenly split during that run, winning three, losing three and drawing once.

- Argentina have conceded 14 penalties in the tournament, the fewest of any team.

- South Africa have scored the most tries in this year's Rugby Championship, their tally of six being twice as many as any other side.

- Herschel Jantjies is the only player to have scored multiple tries (three) in the opening two rounds, the scrum-half has made just seven carries.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has brushed off Steve Hansen's "Mickey Mouse" jibe ahead of the Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth on Saturday.

New Zealand head coach Hansen labelled Cheika as the cartoon character during a fundraising event in Wellington in February.

Hansen was reacting to a statement brought up by former Australia player Mark Ella, who stated: "Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks to victory."

The wily Hansen quipped: "They've got Mickey Mouse coaching Aussie", but Cheika shrugged off the comment when asked about it two days before the trans-Tasman rivals do battle at Optus Stadium.

"Oh mate, is that even a question?" Cheika said when asked about Hansen's words.

"No drama for me."

He added: "There is certain things in footy that you... respect is an important thing in footy.

"It's the nature of the game, you rip into each other and then you socialise after."

Hansen said too much has been made of what he said six months ago.

"I never said he was Mickey Mouse. What I said was in a throwaway line, or something said in jest after an interviewer said to me Mark Ella thinks Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks because they have got so much talent," the 60-year-old stated on Thursday.

"And I just said, 'Well he can't because he's in Australia, coaching Australia'. So you can make a big thing out of it if you want, or you can take it for what it was. Something in jest.

"I have got plenty of respect for what Michael has done. End of story, really."

Rory Best says Ireland's Six Nations failure provided a "reality check" ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland were unable to repeat their 2018 Grand Slam heroics, finishing third after losing to both England and a Wales side that pulled off a clean sweep to secure the title in March.

Captain Best says Ireland will be ready to put that disappointment behind them at the showpiece in Japan.

Best, who will retire after a tournament which will also bring an end to head coach Joe Schmidt's reign, said: "When Joe first came in the big question was 'how do we perceive ourselves?'. The big answer was 'inconsistent'.

"And what we've worked hard to do is to prepare the same whoever we play and whatever we do.

"That's how it's always been under Joe and we certainly won't go away from that now. It sometimes takes a reality check and finishing third was bitterly disappointing.

"So coming in at the start of this pre-season everyone is as hungry as I have ever seen them.

"We've had a group of players that want to prove that the 2019 Six Nations was the blip, not 2018."

Sonny Bill Williams will miss New Zealand's Rugby Championship clash against Australia as the All Blacks named a 34-man squad for the two Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Williams is set to play two games with Counties Manukau, including their Mitre 10 Cup opener, while missing the meeting with the Wallabies in Perth on August 10.

However, the 33-year-old will re-join the All Blacks squad for their clash against Australia in Auckland a week later.

Nepo Laulala will also play for Counties but he will join up with New Zealand for the first game in Perth.

"Bledisloe Cup Tests are always massive Tests," All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said in a release on Wednesday.

"We know that the Wallabies will be confident after their win over Argentina and desperate to win this first match, so we're looking forward to getting to Perth and getting into our Test preparation.

"The Bledisloe Cup is the second most important trophy for us, after the Rugby World Cup, and we're really looking forward to the next two Tests coming up.

"Two weeks together will give us solid preparation towards growing our game understanding and getting our execution honed, so that's exciting.

"The last time the All Blacks played in Perth was way back in 1992 [against a Western Australia side] but this will be an historic first Test for us in the city, so we're also looking forward to catching up with our fans over there."

The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, while they are second to South Africa in the Rugby Championship ahead of the final matches of the tournament.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, George Bridge, Sam Cane, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Braydon Ennor, Vaea Fifita, Owen Franks, Jack Goodhue, Jackson Hemopo, Rieko Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Nepo Laulala, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Richie Mo'unga, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Angus Ta'avao, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brad Weber, Samuel Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams.

Duane Vermeulen described the opportunity to captain South Africa for the first time as an "unbelievable honour" and promised to lead by example.

Experienced number eight Vermeulen has been named skipper for the Springboks' mammoth Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.

And while acknowledging he may not take the most vocal approach to captaincy, Vermeulen is confident he can fulfil the role well with the help of other senior men.

"Only a few players have had the honour of captaining the Springboks in the history of our game, so it is an unbelievable honour for me," Vermeulen told a news conference.

"There's a bit of emotion, but it's controlled emotion.

"The people who know me will tell you that I just love to play and that I am not one for big speeches. I think I lead by example and, from that point of view, it's the way I like to play the game.

"My role in the team still stays the same and we have a big leadership group, which is good for the team. On match days, there's a couple of us who talk on the field."

South Africa defeated the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium last year and Vermeulen added: "I think it will be a massive game with both sides ready to have a good go at each other."

New Zealand may have beaten Argentina by just four points last week but they head into the second round of the Rugby Championship as favourites to see off South Africa.

The Springboks won on their previous visit, although history is very much against them when it comes to away Tests against the All Blacks, with the 57-0 demolition of two years ago still fresh in their minds.

Australia could not handle Rassie Erasmus' men last week but will hope for more success against an Argentina side who have won just two of their past 15 Tests on their travels.

In fact, the Pumas will be bidding to win for only the second time on Australian soil since 1983.

Take a look at the pick of the Opta numbers ahead of round two...

 

Australia v Argentina

- Australia have won 16 of their most recent 18 games against Argentina, including a 45-34 win in their last encounter – the highest total score ever between the two nations.

- The Pumas have only beaten Australia once away from home since 1983 - a 23-19 win in Queensland last September.

- Argentina are on a losing streak of six games, including their past three matches on the road.

- Australia conceded 291 metres in round one, the fewest of any of the four teams and 183 metres lower than their game average from 2018.

- Jeronimo de la Fuente was the only player to make more than 10 carries and 10 tackles in round one (11 carries, 12 tackles).

New Zealand v South Africa

- New Zealand have won 12 of the past 14 Tests against South Africa - including a 32-30 victory last time out - and 22 of their most recent 25 against all opposition.

- The Springboks claimed a 36-34 win on their previous visit to New Zealand and will be hoping for back-to-back wins there for only the third time in their history, after 1937 and 2008-09.

- They have won three of their past four Tests but only triumphed twice in their most recent 12 away Rugby Championship matches.

- The All Blacks are just six points shy of becoming the first team in Test rugby history to reach 16,000 points. No other team has even gone beyond 14,000.

- Ngani Laumape gained 7.2 metres per carry in round one of this year's tournament, the most of any player to make at least 10 carries.

Brad Shields has left England's training camp in Italy after sustaining a foot injury, with Alex Dombrandt called up as his replacement.

The 28-year-old back row has damaged ligaments in his foot and has been sent home for further tests.

Harlequins' Dombrandt, who has enjoyed a standout first season as a professional and was named in a preliminary training squad last month, will fly out to join the rest of the group on Thursday.

Eddie Jones' men are spending 12 days in Treviso as part of their preparations for the World Cup, which gets underway in Japan in September.

England, who face Wales, Ireland and Italy in internationals before the start of the tournament, begin their campaign against Tonga in Sapporo on September 22.

Duane Vermeulen will captain South Africa against New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby Championship clash after Rassie Erasmus made 12 changes to his Springboks side.

South Africa defeated Australia 35-17 in Johannesburg last weekend, but Erasmus had already sent a separate group of players to New Zealand to prepare for the All Blacks.

They are joined by Eben Etzebeth, who was skipper last time out, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Makazole Mapimpi in the XV in Wellington.

Number eight Vermeulen leads the side, joining Du Toit and the inexperienced Kwagga Smith in the back row.

Willie le Roux is in at full-back and Cheslin Kolbe is included on the right wing. Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk are also involved.

Franco Mostert will partner Etzebeth in the second row, while Herschel Jantjies, having debuted last weekend against the Wallabies, has done enough to earn a place on the bench.

Erasmus explained: "We have the utmost respect for the All Blacks who are the undisputed number one rugby team in the world.

"We know we will have to be at our very best to be competitive against the All Blacks on Saturday and that is why we have sent a group of players in advance to Wellington, so they could acclimatise after the long trip over from South Africa.

"The New Zealanders are a very experienced and settled side while we have some catching up to do in terms of where the two sides are at the moment."

 

South Africa XV to face New Zealand: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel.

Steve Hansen says beating South Africa on Saturday would be a tonic for New Zealand but he does not anticipate the outcome having any bearing on their Rugby World Cup showdown in September.

The All Blacks started the defence of their Rugby Championship title with a narrow victory over Argentina last weekend, while the Springboks were too good for Australia.

Both victories were secured with understrength sides but rested players are set to return for a showdown at Westpac Stadium, where South Africa triumphed 36-34 in last year's competition.

New Zealand head coach Hansen is relishing the encounter in Wellington but says it will not have an impact on their World Cup Pool B blockbuster in Yokohama on September 21.

"The tradition is really important. We enjoy their company, we think a lot of them, we respect them very much," said Hansen. 

"We love the way they play and we love the challenge they bring to us. From that point of view, it is a really important encounter. It's the next one so it's obviously really, really important.

"In the big scheme of this year does the result matter? I guess it gives whoever wins it a little bit of confidence going into the World Cup. It won't mean whoever wins this one will automatically win the one in the World Cup.

"Even then whoever wins that game doesn't mean the other team is knocked out of the World Cup either because it is the round-robin stage and you'd expect both teams to go through and qualify.

"In the big scheme it gives everybody an opportunity to have a look at each other and feel each other out but I don't think it's going to affect the World Cup."

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