Ireland has been renowned for under-achieving on the rugby stage, and too often the team has shown courage in defeat rather than triumph. Their record in the Rugby World Cup is not particularly good reading, but could this year be different?
Despite recording some memorable victories (such as 24-23 against Wales in 1995, or 16-15 against Argentina in 2003), the Irish have never made it beyond the last eight in a world cup. However, the last four years has seen Eddie O’Sullivan’s side develop into a tight unit, with a strong pack, and backs as good as any in the world. They have won the Triple Crown twice and have beaten World Champions England every year since 2003.
Nevertheless in 2007, their task to qualify from their group will not be easy as they battle with hosts France and Argentina for a place in the quater-finals. France will be difficult to beat with a home crowd, whilst the Pumas overcame an (albeit weakened) Irish team twice this summer. They will look to avenge the last minute defeat at the hands of the French in this year’s Six Nations, and will want to demonstrate to the Argies what they can do with a full-strength side.
That full-strength side will include the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy – arguably the best centre partnership in the world – as well as Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer and Paul O’Connell. With such talent, they are capable of beating any team, but they will also need the belief. Captain and coach O’Driscoll and O’Sullivan have made progress in building their confidence, but whether they truly believe they can defeat a team like the All Blacks remains to be seen.
To make it to the last four, they will need to win their group, or else face New Zealand in the quarters – unfortunately, I think it could be another last eight exit for the men in green.
Have a look at the montage below showing key man Brian O’Driscoll in action.