Ireland come into the World Cup after probably the worst build-up imaginable, the Irish have just completed their August International series with four losses from four starts. The first match was probably the most disappointing, going down 10-6 to Scotland at Murrayfield. Ireland’s other losses, two to France and one to England, were more promising performances, but the fact remains that Ireland will need to improve dramatically if they are to make it to Eden Park on the 23rd of October.
The four losses have not been the only issue for Ireland, they have also lost the services of experienced David Wallace. 35 year old Wallace was selected for Ireland’s thirty man squad for the tournament in New Zealand, but unluckily injured his knee in the final warm-up match against England, the ligament damage suffered will sideline the flanker for at least six months.
Ireland will be lead by one of the best players to ever wear the famous green in Brian O’Driscoll, who’ll be competing in his fourth World Cup for Ireland. The 113 cap player would be welcome in any team, is rock solid in defence and can exploit any weakness shown by the opposition in attack.
Coach Declan Kidney will be in charge of the team at a World Cup for the first time, the former school teacher started his Irish coaching career with a bang, guiding the team to the 2009 Six Nations and Triple Crown. In the last two years Ireland has failed to repeat that success, finishing second in 2010 and third in 2011. Kidney will hope to be Ireland’s first coach to get the team to the semi-finals, this is despite competing at every World Cup and reaching the quarter-finals four times.
Prediction – Ireland’s build-up has been rough, but with the amount of talent at Kidney’s disposal, it would be foolish to write them off as challengers for the cup. Qualifying for the knock-out stage will be the first step for Irish who, will not want to get too far ahead of themselves. This will also go a long way to erasing the memory of 2007’s disaster, where they didn’t progress past the group stage. A classic against Australia in Auckland should decide which team tops the group, it will be a tough task for Ireland against the in-form Wallabies. Second in pool C and a quarter-final against South Africa looks likely.
By Alex Barlow-Smith