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Confident Ireland ready to make history

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Alastair Eykyn | 15:04 UK time, Sunday, 2 October 2011

Declan Kidney's Ireland have now achieved something that none of their predecessors managed - qualifying top of their pool for the quarter-finals of the World Cup. It is an accomplishment of which they are justifiably proud.

This is a special group of players, achieving special things together. In the red of Munster and the blue of Leinster they have scaled the heights of European and domestic rugby. In the green of Ireland they won the Grand Slam in 2009. Now they have the World Cup itself in their sights.

Ireland arrived in New Zealand on the back of four defeats in a row. Expectations across the country were low. Inside the camp though, there was a residual determination, and a knowledge that they could turn their fortunes around.

Players like Ronan O'Gara, Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell will almost certainly not take part in the next World Cup. For them, this tournament represents their final opportunity to shine on the biggest stage of all. As O'Driscoll himself said in advance of the game against Australia "it's win or bust".

Keith Earls dives over to score for Ireland in their win over Italy

Ireland are flying high as they head into a quarter-final against Wales. Pic: Getty.

As the dust settles on the World Cup pool stages, Ireland are in cracking shape. They edged past a highly motivated USA team on the anniversary of 9/11. They put the celebrated Wallabies to the sword in the shock of the tournament. They destroyed the Russians, and now they have despatched the Italians.

"Where's their weakness?" asked the Italy coach Nick Mallett after watching his team being dismantled under the roof in Dunedin. "Ireland are more than capable of knocking out every side left in their half of the draw. Wales are playing very good rugby, they were close to beating South Africa.

"But my view is that this Irish side have targeted Australia, they have targeted us, and when they're playing like that, they're very hard to stop. I don't think any team would be confident of playing Ireland at the moment."

Ireland have that priceless commodity, momentum. They have a settled side, a happy camp, a clever coach and an inspirational captain. Their World Cup might be only just starting.

They had to graft their way through a tough opening 40 minutes against Italy. It was gritty, it was bad-tempered, it was absorbing. Ireland ground the Italians down, and then let loose after the interval.

The pack again dominated in the set-piece, and once Martin Castrogiovanni went off, the Italian scrum never recovered. The Azzurri posed a threat from their effective rolling maul, but their discipline let them down, and their precision was nothing like as sharp as it needed to be.

Once the platform was established, the Irish tries were always going to follow. Tommy Bowe made the initial incision, and Brian O'Driscoll completed the operation, running the perfect inside line to touch down.

Moments later Gordon D'Arcy burst through the midfield in a rare foray into space. Keith Earls was the beneficiary once the Italian defence had been sufficiently stretched. Earls' second came right at the death, just after Tommy Bowe had been disappointed by referee Jonathan Kaplan's decision not to award what would have been a sensational solo try, chasing his own kick.

Brian O'Driscoll paid tribute afterwards to the "sea of green" support which flooded Dunedin during the week, and washed over the Otago Stadium for the evening. "We have to give them something to cheer about, and it was exactly like Lansdowne Road or Croke Park. In fact, I've played in Dublin in the past when the support hasn't been as good as that. It was incredible out there. For us it was a case of win, or go home. We responded well to that."

One of the few low points from the Ireland perspective was the injury sustained by their hooker Rory Best. He was forced off the field with a shoulder problem, and the way in which he discarded his scrum cap in frustration as he sat down suggests it will not be an easy thing to shake off.

Ireland can ill-afford injuries to key men and hooker is an area of concern. Sean Cronin came off the bench, and will be in pole position to play in the quarter-final if Best doesn't make it. He is inexperienced. Damian Varley is even more callow, and is the current third choice. Jerry Flannery has already had to return home with injury. With a strong scrummaging Welsh outfit on the horizon, the hooker position will occupy Declan Kidney's mind.

There are sizeable ambitions to be found in this Ireland team. Full-back Rob Kearney is looking at the big picture. "This was a big day for Irish rugby in terms of our personalities and the team as a whole, and how we want to be perceived as a team. In terms of building a legacy, this was an important day. We are one of few teams to have won four from four. We want to create something very special, create our own history. There's a lot more to do."

Kearney's words chimed with those spoken by Donncha O'Callaghan before the match with Italy. "This is where we want to separate ourselves from other Irish sides", he said. It is a hefty statement, and could be misconstrued. It could be seen in an arrogant light; a dismissal of the achievements of others who have worn the green shirt before them. It is not remotely intended that way.

O'Callaghan's point, and indeed Kearney's, is that this Ireland side will not be satisfied with gallant defeats. They will not tolerate "a brave effort". Winning is what matters to these players, and to hear them talk in this cold, ruthless manner is striking.

Too often Ireland have been accepting of the underdog tag, accepting that they occasionally punch above their weight for a small island. No longer. This breed of players are demanding success, and they have the talent to pull it off.

Wales will provide a thorough examination of this new-found Irish confidence and belief. Warren Gatland's men have looked the real deal ever since they scared the living daylights out of South Africa in their opening match. Some of the rugby the Welsh produced in their demolition job on Fiji was sublime. In wet conditions, the handling, the accuracy and the pace of their game was hugely impressive.

These two Celtic nations have bubbled into form at precisely the right time. Something has to give. The quarter-final match has every possible ingredient for an epic. It is also worth remembering their controversial Six Nations match in Cardiff in March.

Wales scored a crucial try through Mike Phillips, after Matthew Rees had taken a quick line-out with the wrong ball. It grated at the time, and it has left an indelible scar on the Irishmen on duty that day. There will be no shortage of fireworks on Saturday in Wellington, as the two countries scrap for a place in the last four of a World Cup.

As Declan Kidney put it: "The players know each other very well. We know their game. They know our game. Space will be cut down. You can't keep anything for another day."


  • Comment number 1.

    Epic is a very good word.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ireland looked good today and out of the Home Nations, they look the best equipped to win this competition. Just not sure Wales can really do it when it counts (should have beaten SA) and England look very limited. If Johnno sticks with WIlko and Tindall, they may scrape past France but thats it. Flood has to start. France look terrible but they can always turn things around as we have seen many times before.

    NZ will miss Carter but should still have enough to get them through to the Final. But we have said that before. Nerves and pressure will be even bigger for them this time around and if either Ireland or Wales can make the Final, they have a reasonable chance (Ireland especially) of bringing the WWE Trophy back to the Northern Hemispehere.

  • Comment number 3.

    Its a pity that one of these teams will leave the tournament next week. Having said that, if we (Wales) did make it to the final, we'd possibly be relying on someone else to beat the All Blacks. Yes we'd give them a helluva game, but I would be more confident in an Irish team beating them.

    Very pleased with what we have done so far, and look forward to a great weekend. I fancy Wales to win, and both sets of supporters to have a great time.

  • Comment number 4.

    as an ireland fan, im very pleased so far. ok we were poor in the friendlies before the competition but the world cup is where results matter. having seen both england and france 'struggle' for form i think we have the best chance of the NH teams of reaching the final but of course there is a lot of work to be done yet. like i said on the england thread yesterday though the most important thing at this stage is to still be in the world cup. it doesnt matter who has and hasnt played well so far. the best time to find your form is from next week and i think near enough any team left in the competition could up their game and reach the final. im certainly not counting any chickens at the moment.

    cant wait to play wales next week. they looked very good today and the match could be a cracker.

  • Comment number 5.

    SUPERB performance by Ireland today. Players like O'Connell and O'Gara who have looked 'too old' in certain competions this year have shown they have what it takes in the rarified atmosphere in international test-match rugby.

    It ill be a 50/50 match against a very good Wales team in the quarters and then a semi against either England or France, both of whom reputation goes very much ahead of performance so afr in RWC2011. An then, if Ireland make it that far - and BELIEVE - they can beat any team in the final, even NZ.

  • Comment number 6.

    If Ireland and Wales are smart, they will avoid beating each other up in the way that England and France are likely to do, so that the winner is in reasonable shape with minimal injuries to go into the SF.

    Carter injury shows danger in making any one player so important to the team (even when he is).

    God only knows what sort of match England and France will play out?

  • Comment number 7.

    My only concern is that I have been watching rugby for a long time and every time a match is built up as a classic encounter in the making it almost always serves up a stodgy kick fest. Mind you that won't stop it being enthralling though. You've got to love the tension of knock-out rugby! I think Ireland will beat Wales but I suspect it won't be pretty. Oh, and they'll beat England in the semis as well.

  • Comment number 8.

    I remember watching the last World Cup with my French housemates and my South African best friend, and I was brimming with optimism for Ireland...them ones had quite a laugh at my expense, and then at the expense of the land in which we dwelt when England got beaten in the final (none of us thought Cueto was in touch, it just made it all the funnier!).

    I remember watching Ireland v France with fellow music students from Leinster and Munster (I'm an Ulsterman), and I'd no expectations game of rugby I've ever seen, from my perspective anyway, which was and remains in no way objective. The way we won the Grand Slam that year was so surprising, the ruthlesness and the ability to get the job done ugly...traitorous as it is to taint the boys in green by association, they were like England and South Africa in 2007. They won, by hook, or indeed by crook if necessary. They found a way.

    I remember watching the Lions with the same Saffa friend. It was a very Hiberno-Welsh flavoured squad that year. I remember being absolutely blown away by the rugby on show, the intensity of the performances, how magnificent South Africa had to be to win. So many of the real leaders of that team were Irish. Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe, David Wallace...the Lions is a joint enterprise, but the calibre of Ireland's stars really shone through for me in a way that I wasn't really expecting.

    The team seems to have been building inexorably for a longer period of time than any Irish team in any sport that I've ever known. It'll take them winning the thing to make it more special to me than seeing Fermanagh in the All-Ireland semifinals at Croke Park (if you don't know anything about GAA, this is like London Welsh getting to the Heineken Cup semifinal, except instead of playing Toulouse they've got to play New Zealand, and they've earned it by beating give some idea of the perceived gap in quality). The thing is, I've got an awfully similar feeling to the one I had before Fermanagh's All-Ireland QF against Armagh, and it's precisely the feeling I had after the 6N game against France in 2009. It's a sort of ominous optimism that dares not breathe too heavily nor speak too overtly, but it's strong as can be and it's not going away, despite the pessimism I attempt to adopt.

    As Nick Mallett asks...where's their weakness? Where are the question marks that pervade other teams? What's stopping this Ireland side from doing something our country's economies of scale (or lack thereof) make sensibly impossible?

    Good times.

  • Comment number 9.

    Itreland vs England fro the semi final anyone? 2 Teams with a 5 from 5 record and plenty of history will make for a cracking semi finals match.

    I just hope the Irish don't burn everything in order to beat the Welsh and find they have no reserves when they get to the Semi Final.

    The only genuine problem I see for Ireland is that they don't have a good hooker if Best is out injured. He and Flannery are a cut above all the other Irish hookers and whilst Cronin is young and has potential, he is still very inexperienced and yet to show his true tallent on the international stage.

    Being an impartial Englishman I think Ireland 26 - 20 Wales will be the final score or there abouts. I just hope the rugby is of a better standard than the England - Scotland game was. Although it wouldn't be hard to improve on that.

  • Comment number 10.

    England will win the WC. They have the most reliable game plan - big forwards to dominate and keep the ball and a kicker who will not miss the penalties that will come from this approach. It's simple - it worked in 2003 and will work again. Ireland play a limited game - kicking to plan, leaning on the edge of what legal and they are my second fav's. The most exciting , talented sides like Aus and Wales will lose out playing too much rugby. Pity.

  • Comment number 11.

    Ireland and Wales have been far and away the two best NH sides at this tournament, shame one of them is going home after this weekend. Ireland know how to win in tight circumstances, built from several years of 6N excellence, British Lions and Heineken Cup experience with Leinster and Munster at the highest level.

    Wales don't have so much experience to draw on but have more threat behind the scrum, if only Gatland knew what his best line-up is. How does he use Hook? Who's the best centre partner for Roberts?

    If Kidney starts with Sexton and brings Ronan on after 60/65 mins I believe Ireland will be in the semi final to play the least worst between England and France in their QF, but it won't matter and Ireland will make the final.

  • Comment number 12.

    The Wales v Ireland match could be the last for four of the best players in Irish rugby history O'G O'C BOD and both O'D's. It will be a same if they go out on a losing side.

  • Comment number 13.

    It will be a tough and tense match. There is so much on the line. I believe the Irish are more experienced in winning tight games (think Munster and Leinster) and that could hold them in good stead on Saturday. It will not be a cake-walk for either team and it may not be much of a spectacle, either. It could be a tightly contested grind, but I hope I am wrong; rugby needs a flowing, fast and exciting game in order to capture a wider audience. Anyway, Ireland to edge it due to a lack of self-belief in the Wales team and the fact that they are not used to winning much or closing out games when it really counts.

  • Comment number 14.

    Ireland look in great shape. They won when underdogs against Australia, then won when favourites against Italy. They can play in 3rd gear and be very effective, when they up the level, as they did for the first 20 minutes of the second half v Italy, they look as complete a side as there is in the tournament. Definitely the best side in the European half of the draw, and no good reason not to believe they can make it all the way to the final.

    As a Bok supporter, I am not particularly relishing a quarterfinal against an Australian side that's had the wood over us for the last two years, but the alternative was Ireland and I would be fearing that match-up even more.

  • Comment number 15.

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  • Comment number 16.

    I think if Wales play a tight game, Ireland will win by a few points. If Wales play an expansive game with the confidence they have shown throughout the world cup I can see us beating Ireland by 15-20 points. In open play, I honestly believe that the Welsh back row of Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau are the best back row unit in the world. If they beat Ireland, they will win the semi, regardless who they play. If they then meet the ABs in the final, I think the youngsters in the side will have little regard or sentiment for history and will prevail. But personally, now that Carter is out they have lost thier key play maker and S. Africa will beat them in the semis (after they've beaten Oz in the quarters). Either way, it will be a shame that this weekend one of these 2 teams will be on their way home

  • Comment number 17.

    #6 Coochy Coo - If either team even considers not fronting up 100% in an effort to save themselves for the week after they will be going home after the weekend. I'm afraid the notion that either of these teams will consider not trying to knock seven bells out of each other in a World Cup quarter final is a strange one to put it politely.

    #10 marc - No they won't not unless they play alot better than they are currently, England have had some performances over the past couple of years where they have suggested they could be a force (Australia, Ireland etc.) but we need to rediscover that form quickly if we're are to stand a chance. Plus the French look in total disarray and we beat them earlier in the year so they're bound to put their one world cup performance in against us before crashing and burning in the semis.

    Ireland have some fantastic leaders and could beat anyone on their day but finally Wales have finally added some steel and consistentsy to their performances. Warburton is certainly one of the best flankers in the world and as a leader he has a touch of the Martin Johnson's about him as he leads from the front and lets his playing do the talking. I'd back him to go on to become of the great welsh captains starting this weekend when they edge the Irish in a classic tight game.

  • Comment number 18.

    Honestly can't see Ireland beating Wales, Wales have been the most consistent and it was only because Australia werent expecting them that they won, also worth noting Wales should have won the SA match if the penalty went to the TMO.
    Going to be very close though, but I'd put my money on Wales.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ireland and Wales seem to have hit their stride at the right time .. looking forward to what I hope will be an epic game.

    Ireland look to have the slight advantage, showing they're capable of sqeezing a win out of a tight game, maybe Wales are a little fragile in that respect.

    Either way it's a tremendous opportunity for a Northern Hemisphere team to get to the final. England and France will be hoping that the Irish and Welsh teams knock seven shades out of each other.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's a big match that can go either way but the massive Irish support could give Ireland a slight advantage. Like all the previous matches, the battle will be won up front and if the Irish pack gets enough ball, our backs have shown they can score tries.

    The Welsh backline is excellent but if they don't get possession, they'll find it hard to threaten the Irish defence which has been excellent so far.

  • Comment number 21.

    #17 Mark Jones

    .. not strange, smart or "Irish Cute" as Declan Kidney the Irish team manager calls it.

    I was not trying to imply that Wales and Ireland should dance round each other like maidens near a may pole, rather that they should not engage in personal physical damage in the way that France and England are likely to, especially if one of E/F knows before 80 mins is up that they are beaten and have nothing to lose by dishing a bit of dirt to the opposition.

    Celtic cousins, Wales and Ireland simply don't hate each other in the way that England and France are on record for doing. Wales and Ireland will hope that France are going to take everything that is happening to them out physically on their favourite scapegoat to the benefit of the winner of W/I in the SF one week later.

    Of course, England can avoid French physical retribution by playing attractive, cerebral, creative, well executed wide running rugby and thereby match gallic flair with flair........

    time will tell.

  • Comment number 22.

    Agreed #20. It's all very well saying, 'if Wales play an expansive game...(how many times have we heard this over the years?)' but if they can't get a platform, it won't happen. To quote the Kidney mantra, forwards decide if the game's won or lost, backs decide by how much.

    This game will be an attritional forwards battle. The kicker who retains the confidence of his pack will gain his team the advantage. The game won't open up until the second half, there's too much quality in both sides defence.

  • Comment number 23.

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  • Comment number 24.

    I was impressed by how we responded to the match pressure. At half time, the pressure was even greater because if the game had continued to be tight for the next 20/30 minutes or so, the fear of losing could have done funny things. I think this is what happened to New Zealand in '07 against the French.
    If we assess Ireland as a team with faint hopes coming into the tournament, we have played very well. However, the posts have shifted - we are now looking at a side with a genuine chance of making it to the final. In that light, we do have weaknesses. When Mallet asked rhetorically where our weaknesses are, he was still under the emotional spell of the game. Such comments should be taken with a pinch of salt because we do have weaknesses.
    The defensive maul can be exploited by a strong pack with with territorial advantage. The lineouts have been going well but Rory Best (without doubt one of our players of the tournament so far) has had a significant part to play there. Without him, we have a hooker with a bad throw. Our tight head cover is significantly inferior to Ross - look what happened Italy when they lost Castro.
    In attack, our maul hasn't been a potent force. Our line breaks have been scarce and when they've happened the support runners haven't been there. Our backline is still pretty lateral (admittedly, this aspect has improved some but still....)

    I don't mean to put a dampener on this euphoria (aka do a George Hook) but just throw some realism into the mix.

    We have a great chance but let's not get carried away ...

  • Comment number 25.

    @10 marc - England may win if Dan Carter's mum plays in his place.

  • Comment number 26.

    Not too sure about this myth that Ireland will win matches if its close at the end. They have only managed 1 GS after being in contention many times in the last 10 years when they have had their best players in their history playing in the same era. I remember many times frustratingly watching them fall at the last hurdle.

  • Comment number 27.

    Good post #24.

    If you believe in momentum then each performance is a snapshot of Ireland's improvement week to week. On that basis, they should iron out many of the weaknesses you mention for the Wales game and enhance their strengths.

    Let's hope that if Best is not fit, that Momentum (i.e. POC and the pack) sweep Cronin and his darts up to levels he has not yet reached.

    P.s. glad that I do not pay any licence fee that wings it way to George Hook's coffers.

  • Comment number 28.

    @26 Marc - many matches these days turn on very small things and GS's will become increasingly rare I think. Ireland should probably have had one more GS in the past 7 or 8 years. But you also need to think about the Heineken Cups and the experience that brings to the side when needing to close out those close matches.

    I think the only significant failure in Irish rugby over the past decade or so was the 2007 RWC and hopefully they can put that right this time.

    Any of the 4 NH sides can get to the final - all too close to call, depends on who turns up on the day. England still the bookies favourite, but Ireland's odds are shortening fast!

  • Comment number 29.

    Having watched the friendlies pre-RWC I was dubious as to whether any NH team could challenge for the title. The Irish and Welsh have really stepped up and seem to have ignited a team that was lacking in performance only a few months ago. I can't wait to see them fight it out this Saturday. I am English and hope we can find some of the passion and form that they have shown. If Ireland strangle the forawrds and prevent any space as they did against the Wallabies then I can see them winning. It's gonna be close though I think so good luck to both teams. If we beat France and meet either team in the semi thenI think we will struggle with our incompetence at the breakdown and very average inside centre (Tindall).

  • Comment number 30.

    Hooker and tighthead are key. We need to keep Ross fit, Buckley's useless and Court's far better on at loosehead. If Best's out for the tournament it puts question marks on the lineout and the scrum, and given how key they are to Ireland's gameplan, what with the tactical kicking strength of both of our 10s, we might find we rue the cost of losing two hookers...hope not though. Have heard some good things about Cronin. He should be absolutely gunning for his chance to shine, hopefully he grasps it with both hands.

  • Comment number 31.

    Just read that it's a sprain, so Best could be fit for a potential semi final. Apparently they've not even given up on him for the weekend, though I don't want to get my hopes up. He's a leader, has captained Ulster for years, big loss in that epartment too.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why is Ireland the only ageing team? No one talks of Tindell, Sheriden, Cueto, Moody, Easter, Wilkenson or Thompson being "ageing" for England. Yet all these guys are the same age of POC or older! None are younger.

    Mark my words...Lions tour in 2013...will have POC and BOD on it! ROG prob wont make it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Lions tour 2013?

    No O'Driscoll, O'Connell, O'Callaghan, O'Gara or Darcy. New kids on the block representing Ireland will include Sexton, Murray, Healy, Cronin, Earls and O'Brien. If fit, Ferris, Bowe, Jennings, Heaslip and Kearney should also make the squad.

  • Comment number 34.

    Its a shame either Ireland or Wales will go out next Saturday. Both teams have played the best out of the Northern hemisphere teams, both have great passionate support - especially Ireland - and it will be the team who can play with controlled passion that will win this game and possibly go on to win the World Cup! Just imagine!!

    I just hope its Ireland.

  • Comment number 35.

    Damien Varley was Munster's form hooker last season, if he gets on the field his darts and lineout throwing will be excellent. His best work is close in around the fringes, I would suggest he is ideal for a game against the Welsh if Ireland want to try and tie in the Flying Welsh backrow. He is a very strong scrummaging hooker and might actually be the best like for like replacement of Rory Best. His time with Munster means that both POC and DOC will understand the rhythm of his lineouts, Cronin is quality but I'd have no worries if Varley takes the field against the Welsh at any point next week.

    Of course I hope RB is fit for the game, I don't think he has ever played badly for Ireland.

  • Comment number 36.

    I picked Ireland to win 2007 and they messed it up. I really believe that they can win it this time. I am a passionate England supporter but the latest revelation has sickened me and I almost want them to lose out because of it. It is very shaming. Ireland play the game at times beautifully as if they know what they are doing and I hope that they are rewarded. Also, the prospect of Wales winning a World Cup would be too much to bear. But they are good and I think will Grand Slam it this season. England need to pick some of the "exciting" new talent that they have and give it a go. Plan for the future, lads.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hate to say it Coochy coo, the Welsh aren't Celtic. They didn't even call themselves Celtic. Their art, engineering and culture is not Celtic. The Cornish are and Irish are. Wonderful, amusing people though the Welsh are (well, some of them) but not Celtic.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think we will just nick it on Saturday, I think our experience in the big occasions (the GS and HC Finals recently) will put our boys on a better footing than the welsh, who by the way are a Celtic race and a very proud one at that! read our history before making accusations about another, our histories and people are very much interwined and similar.
    The welsh will be thinking exactly the same as we are that they can reach the final and we will be the biggest test of the remaining NH teams left in the RWC. It's our experience and knowhow against their youthful exuberance.
    I only have one word of warning, the Irish/welsh made up the majority of the last lions tour and both sets of players were the stand out performers in the test teams, they too have won the GS the year before ours in 2008, and as we had to go to Cardiff, they had come to Dublin for theirs. The welsh with confidence and playing heads up rugby are a different prospect to the ones we lost to this year.....even though they cheated!

  • Comment number 39.

    Hate to say it steggsy, the welsh are celtic. They do regard themselves as celtic. There are two types of celtic peoples left in europe, Brythonic celts: Bretons, (Brytanny, France) Cornish and Welsh. Then there are Gaelic celts: Irish and Scottish. I've studied this area of history alot and i would like to go more indepth, however this is a rugby blog. If the Welsh are not celtic, then the cornish are not as well. Both the welsh and cornish are the reminents of the ancient Britons. When the final legions left this country in around 450-500AD, the ancient britons were pushed west by Angles and Saxons. The ancient Britons were refered to by the Saxons as Wallia (foreigners). As the Britons were pushed further west the britons in wales were cut off (via the severn) from the britons in cornwall, for a time Cornwall was refered to by the Saxons (ancestral English) as south west Wales until the Normans conquered England. I suggest you get your facts right before you make these wild statements!

  • Comment number 40.

    I believe that some of our Celtic friends have a touch of English arrogance about them i.e. looking forward to the semis and final before next weeks` match. Please carry on with this confidence and patronising comments that Wales have good backs but are too young, and will be starved of any ball by a "superior" Irish pack and the "experience" to win in close games!! Yes! Carry on thinking about a match up with England and then New Zealand but don`t be surprised when old "Dad`s Army" are humbled by a quietly confident, fit, fast, fearless Welsh team. Win or lose Wales are on the up!

  • Comment number 41.

    cheers coochycoo. I agree that we have been correcting things as each game goes by. There's a learning curve for sure. It was interesting to read Kurt MacKuilkin's take on matters about how the strategy was to move the Italian front 5 from side to side and thereby take out their scrummaging threat.
    It seems this has come down to a hotly debated 'who is celtic?' debate....let's park that one for our scrumptious 6 nations and just be NH inbreeds (I reluctantly include the French in this) :)

  • Comment number 42.


    Rubbish re arrogance.

    Irish supporters know that its teams such as Leinster, Munster and national team have fought hard for everything they have won in the last 5 years and will have to do the same and more if we are to progress any further including next Sat.

    We hope we will win as do welsh supporters for Wales. I doubt Irish supporters will be surprised if Ireland win or lose. We would be surprised if we are humbled by any remaining team in this WC, including Wales.

    Only a fool would disagree with Shuan Edwards in calling Wales - Ireland as a 50:50.

  • Comment number 43.

    What a load of rubbish referring to any 'arrogance' of the Irish at present.

    Indeed that is one of their strengths, as seen last weekend under Paul O'Connell they will fight for every second, every inch. (I'm not a great believer in 'English arrogance' either, by the way). I can't think of any other team (except possibly NZ) that is so switched on for the full 80 as Ireland. What Wales have got (as of much of the last decade) the ability to score points against anyone - if they get in full flow. How ironic that still Hook is not a certain starter for the QF - a player in search of a position.

    You have to laugh at how much all us England fans are now looking forward to the next Lions tour! But what I want is two things - a couple of young English players to stick their head above the parapet and b) A STAND-OUT 10! From somewhere....... England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland. But there are no certain starters for any of these sides at national level, nevermind for the Lions. You've got to say that Priestland is playing very good for his age but, there, I said it - for his age....

  • Comment number 44.

    Steggsy, you make some good comments from time to time but that the Welsh aren't Celtic is a real clanger! What history books have you been reading? Look at the implications of what you have said and observe how what was an excellent blog, has unfortunately detioriated into a slagging match, because of one erroneous comment!
    Re who is going to win it, it will come down to experience and who wants it most. As the key Irish players are staring down the barrel of their last WC, my guess is that they will want it more than a very young (and talented) Welsh side and the experience of winning a GS and 4 Heineken Cups in 5 years is crucial. That is why 23 of 23 bookies give Ireland a slight edge (average Ireland 4/5: Wales 6/5). Wales are a real quality side in the making but 23 bookies are unlikely to be wrong!
    I hope Ireland do it, I know they can and my gut tells me that after accepting the wrong ball incident in Cardiff earlier in the year so graciously, they are now due a slice of luck which could/will be critical in such a tight game!
    Come on Ireland!! With the exception of a couple of begrudgers like "Channel4ball" (what is wrong with you man, how can you overlook the inumerable positives to dwell on so many inexistant negatives when the team are playing like men inspired - you and George HOOK must surely have been cut from the same stone?), the entire nation is resolutely behind you!

  • Comment number 45.

    "I hope Ireland do it, I know they can and my gut tells me that after accepting the wrong ball incident in Cardiff earlier in the year so graciously, they are now due a slice of luck which could/will be critical in such a tight game!"

    you little genius munsterboy. Tell your gut I said hello!

  • Comment number 46.

    I cant help but think all Ireland have achieved this World Cup is one impressive win. The other 3 wins were buisness as usual. And against USA they didnt look over convincing. I'm not meaning to be over harsh, 4 from 4 is fantastic, and beating Australia a great acheivment. But I think this blog is over the top with its praise.
    Wales v Ireland is going to be a great game to watch as a neutral. I would like to think England will face the victor in the semis, and if I am honest, I don't know who I would rather meet. For me the finalist from this side of the draw is too close to call.
    England/France/Ireland/Wales? Could be any. Ireland and Wales have the better form, but France can never be written off, and England thrive on knockout rugby.....awesome stuff!

  • Comment number 47.

    @36 Steggsy...........why is this latest revelation so sickening? (I have yet to hear what was actually said) This whole off pitch scandals thing seems to be hype for hypes sake, or to try and tarnish a team. I would not be overly surprised if other teams had similar incidents but just werent publisised as it doesnt make as good a story!

  • Comment number 48.

    @ 46

    have to agree. Like you say, apart from the australia win, the others should have been expected. I, however, am surprised at how well ireland have done. I am nearly eating my hat after those 4 consecutive losses before the tournament started. I'm starting with the rim if anyone wanted to know??

  • Comment number 49.

    I am surprised too. How long can they keep it up. NZ, Aus, SA and Eng have more momentum, they have been winning more this year than Ireland.
    I know Aus lost to Ire and some would say that they have lost their momentum. But I am sure that back at Camp Oz, they have focused on the fact that they are Tri-Nations champions.......that could be a very good moral booster.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think they might struggle against Wales tbh. Think gatland might have the measure of the irish!! Think it could be a really exciting game though, just hope we see some good rugby and a real bruising encounter so the winners are softened up a bit for (hopefully) england!

  • Comment number 51.

    Who do you think England are more likely to beat? Wales or Ireland? The best team will win, but that is such a big game for both teams, can see it being very tight and won on the small margins.
    Whereas the Engaldn France game I see being much more one sided. Which side I am not sure, mainly down to if France turn up. But i think the winner of that will be fresher for the semi's!

  • Comment number 52.

    i think that England would be more likely to beat ireland tbh. So kind of hope they go through. But either way it would be very tough. Its going to be hard for every team that get through.

    i think England will beat France, but as you say, it will depend which France turn up. All we can hope for is a great end to what has been a fantastic WC so far

  • Comment number 53.

    Actually, according to Howard Marks anyway, who's a native Welsh speaker himself, and who (before embarking upon a more irresponsible course) was enough of a scholar to obtain a degree in nuclear physics from Oxford, the language contains variations within its structure and grammar that mark it as older than other British languages, and in fact there are good reasons to believe that Welsh descends from a pre-Celtic language.

    That's not to say there are or have been no Celts in Wales, nor is it to say there's not been a certain amount of demographic and cultural assimilation, but as a people and a culture with a continuous presence there's good evidence to suggest they precede the Celts.

    Keep hearing more positives on Rory Best, they've not ruled him out yet. The collarbone break has been downgraded to an AC sprain, and his shoulder's said to be responding well to treatment.

    You'd expect Ireland to beat all the other teams, but the way they put away Italy was, if I say so myself as a one-eyed observer, clinically efficient. Also, you have to bear in mind that's the first time an Irish team's won a Test against Tri-Nations opposition Down Under, which is a huge hoodoo. In fact, it seems like their hallmark is shaking off historical hoodoos like that, which is why many of us're hoping for prizes that would before have appeared to be sensibly beyond our team.

    If Ireland do beat Wales (and it's a big if; their pack's going to be even better than Italy's and their backs're not far off Australian standards), I would definitely not fancy France. There's no problem at all getting any Irishman worked up to play England, but France have been the party poopers time and time again. We only seem to beat them in Dublin, and even then it's a rare enough occasion. Curse you Vincent Clerc!

  • Comment number 54.

    I can't understand the accusations of Ireland being "arrogant". I thought the level-headed approach after beating Australia was excellent, PO'C spoke great sense. Contrast that with the goings-on around the England camp...many would say that it has an arrogance about it.

    It's good for Wales and Ireland to finaly front up at the WC, it's been 24 years since Wales were in a SF, and 12 years since Ireland made a QF. You wouldn't have thought that possible given their occasional (Wales) and consistant (Ireland) success in the 6N over the past 7 years. Anyone that says the 6N is a second-rate comp is talking rubbish, England or France have made the WC Final in 5 out of 6 tournaments.

    Ireland v England, SA v NZ semi-finals

  • Comment number 55.

    I have to appologise to "Channel4Ball" for suggesting he was overly negative re the apparent chinks in Ireland's quite considerable armoury. I guess thats the down side of blogging at 2 am!

    My point was simply that momentum and positive thinking are vital in these situations. I dont know how people are affected by Wales reaching the Q Finals, but in Ireland it is quite simply the only thing anyone wants to talk about. They players have been very professional in remaining in the moment and in focusing on their straengths and addressing their weaknesses behind the scenes. While I accept that Ireland's defense against the marauding Italian mauls in the first half was poor, I have no doubt this weakness will be addressed this week just as the scrum issues, evident in the pre-tournament warm up games, have been well and truly put to bed.
    Ireland want and desperately need to progress for the good of a proud nation, which is feeling out of sorts given the economic woes of the past 18 months.
    Lets be positive therefore, lets show that we as supporters have the belief in the team on the off-chance that some of the players may be reading this blog. Their performances have, thus far, been awesome and we ought to highlight that fact.
    A Positive Mindset is key to Ireland's continued progression in this tournament. The team’s spirit, confidence, self belief and the ability to handle adversity feed off it's positivity. In reality the term momentum is representative of the mental strength of a team. It is a state of mind. As in all aspects of life it is the mindset that drives performance. Momentum gives fuel to the correct mindset and that leads to excellence in performance.
    Believe therefore (please disregard this advice if you are a fan of Wales), but in so-doing remain humble. Even if we exceed our wildest dreams at this tournament I would hate to see the achievement uspoiled by unnecessary arrogance either on the part of the players or its fans.
    Come on Ireland!!! We can do it!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Seanthenoisemaker you bring tears to my eyes with your sentiments regarding Irish rugby and Fermanagh football. Hands up who is tentativley looking at flights for NZ on 23 October?

  • Comment number 57.

    #21 Coochy Coo - Really sorry mate but I don't think you'll find either Wales or Ireland will do anything other than smash each other to pieces in the tight, and that's as it should be.

    Firstly any team that wants to win or get close to a world cup has to play test matches against other major nations at 100% and that includes the physical stuff and the dark arts.

    Secondly, although England and France undoubtedly dislike each other there is absolutely no evidence I can think of that players are more likely to get injured in their previous matches than any other. Test matches are brutal affairs, event the ones that look beautiful.

    And finally, check out the delightful celtic camaraderie displayed after the 6N this year when Wales used the wrong ball to sneak a win. There's a few grudges to be settled in this one.

    Oh yeah and the small matter of place in a semi final of the World Cup up for grabs (the last chance for many of the Irish lads).

    Still change my mind about who will win every half an hour or so but I fancy both teams will be leaving boold, sweat, tears and body parts on the pitch at the final whistle.

    Pains me to say though but unless England or France improve unbelievably the reward for the winners should be a spot in the final.

  • Comment number 58.

    A month ago, I popped up the road and watched a few holes of Leona Maguire on her way to winning the British Ladies Amateur Strokeplay Championship (that no one around here seemed to know was on, but that is another story - I only found out through surfing the Irish papers) and remarked that she and her caddy worked together as a team with a job to do. I see the same serenity in the eyes of the Irish management and squad both on and off the pitch. They take the rough with the smooth, ignore the hype and the ego's and do the job. It's a great mindset. Unlike Leona and all the other competitors in that competition, they also have a Vast and Noisey Fan Club supporting them. That will help greatly. Let the Lads do their best - it may very well be good enough to win the pot. I hope so.

  • Comment number 59.

    #57 Mark J

    Yes agreed they will be going 100% but suggest you read article in today's websites quoting Harinorduquy (? spelling) who, when asked about the French approach, uses the precise words of "fight" and "not much passing, plenty of contact". That was what I meant, but in fact he could be bluffing and we see France play expansively and run everything? I doubt it tho.

    It is all relative, but I anticipate more injuries arising from "fighting" in F/E game than in W/I. Conversely, we may see more hamstrings popping in the latter game. Not that the other side of the draw will be any easier and it may be true that the SH teams are starting to show signs of body fatigue at end of their season.

    Should be two cracking games. I bet on Ireland to get to win/final before tournament started, but really have no idea which 1 of the 4 NH teams will make it to the final.

    If Ireland don't make the final, they deserve a bit of credit for ensuring one NH team definitely does, by beating Australia in the pool.


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