TOKYO (Reuters) – Ireland would have to just move on and prepare for their World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand without centre Bundee Aki even if they still may appeal his three-match ban, forwards coach Simon Easterby said on Tuesday.
New Zealand-born Aki was banned for three games late on Monday after he received a red card for a high tackle in Ireland’s final Pool A victory against Samoa on Saturday.
Easterby said they would need to see the full report from the disciplinary hearing before they make a decision as to whether to appeal, but given the week was marching on they had to just plan to be without the 29-year-old.
“We’re lucky that we have a real good group of players in that midfield, but he’s one of those and we’d be disappointed if we don’t get to use him,” Easterby told reporters at the team hotel in Tokyo.
“Until we’ve seen the report and know exactly how they came to that decision, we’ll probably have to wait until we see that before we make any further comment.
“We like to have as much clarity as possible early in the week and it’s now Tuesday. We obviously had a travel day yesterday so we were a little limited in terms of time on the pitch in training.
“At the moment were having to take the take the course of action that Bundee won’t be available.”
Easterby added that Robbie Henshaw’s return to full fitness ahead of the Samoa game was a massive boost for the clash with the All Blacks and he added to the midfield equation for the side.
“We’re really fortunate that the medics and Robbie worked particularly hard to get him back up to speed – and him getting through 80 minutes against the Samoans was great to see,” Easterby said.
Ireland have never advanced past the quarter-finals at the World Cup and face a massive task to break that curse against the three-times champions.
Joe Schmidt’s side, however, have won two of the last three games between the two teams and Easterby said making it three in four would depend on them shutting down the All Blacks ability to accumulate points quickly.
“They’re probably most dangerous when it’s loose and maybe get a turnover and are able to do what they did against South Africa – and go from 3-0 down to a 17-3 lead very quickly,” Easterby said in reference to the All Blacks opening game.
“Things like that can happen very quickly if you’re not on your game, so we’re fully aware of that.
“We’ve seen that ourselves in recent games, how dangerous they can be. We know that if you give them a sniff, they’ll take their opportunities.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christian Radnedge)