RWC2011: Ireland Team preview

1 09 2011

Stephen Ferris gets to grips with England's Courtney Lawes. Pic: Ken Sutton

 

Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
Ireland have been off form for the most part of this year. The only game where they showed what they can really do was the 24-8 defeat of England in the final game of the Six Nations to deny England a Grand Slam. Since then they have lost all four of their warm-up games to Scotland, France (home and away) and England. While there has been much improvements in the forward play, the back line seems to be bereft of ideas and any penetration.

Track Record:
Ireland don’t have much of a track record in the World Cup, they have reached the quarter finals but never progressed beyond that stage four times. The only significant record they hold is the top points scorer of the tournament for Ralph Keyes the Irish fly-half. After a dismal 2007 World Cup in France, Ireland will be looking to make amends.

Best Rugby World Cup moment:
The most iconic moment for the Irish team in previous World Cups came in the ’91 quarter final against Australia, Gordon Hamilton scored a try to put Ireland ahead by 3 points with 5 minutes on the clock. Ireland did not seal the win as a quick tap penalty from Michael Lynagh led to him to score the winning try in the dying seconds leaving 40,000 heartbroken Irish fans wondering what happened!

Biggest Rugby World Cup win: 64-7 (v Namibia 2003)
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: 19-43 (v New Zealand 1995)

Key Player:
The Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll is heading into his fourth and final World Cup. O’Driscoll remains one of the greatest centres in world rugby to this day. He made his 100th appearance for Ireland against Wales in the 2010 RBS 6 Nations, has led Ireland to four Triple Crowns (in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009) as well as a Championship and Grand Slam.

One to Watch:
The ‘Tullow Tank’, Sean O’Brien has been in devastating for over the last two seasons. He picked up the ERC player of the Year 2011 after a barnstorming Heineken Cup run with Leinster. He is the complete back rower, combining awesome strength with speed and agility. The Carlow man started all nine of Leinster’s Heineken Cup matches, picking up three man-of-the-match awards, and was also first choice for Ireland for all their games in the Six Nations, being named man-of-the-match against Italy.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
11/09 – 07:00 BST v USA, New Plymouth
17/09 – 09:30 BST v Australia, Auckland
25/09 – 07:00 BST v Russia, Rotorua
02/10 – 09:30 BST v Italy, Dunedin

Key Clash:
As mentioned in our Australia preview a few days back, the key clash in Pool C is Ireland v The Wallabies. The winner of this game will surely top the pool and likely to face Fiji/Tonga/Wales in a quarter final. Ireland will have to contain the mercurial Australian back line of Genia, Cooper, O’Connor and Beale.

Odds: 40/1 to win the World Cup outright and 3/1 to win their pool.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney says:
Kidney is adamant that losing four warm-up games should not create a sense of negativity around Ireland’s preparations:
“If you don’t win it you are disappointed. But at times you have to see a bigger picture, see where you’re going. While we’re disappointed with our losses against England and France, I’d like to feel that if we had to play them again in five or six weeks’ time we’ll have learned from this experience and we’ll be the better for it.”

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll says:
“This is my last one, I’m not going to look back in five or 10 years and wish that I’d been into it a bit more. I will enjoy the next six, hopefully, seven weeks and, hopefully, create some new memories along the way”
O’Driscoll is keen to point out the World Cup has not started yet: “We weren’t playing in the World Cup. The World Cup is our next game, We’ve a big two weeks ahead of us.”

Prediction:
It all boils down to the crucial game against Australia. A win means an easier path to the semi’s. So far we have not seen anything to expect Ireland to win that game, so, I predict a quarter final exit.

Position: Quarter final exit.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk





Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton - http://pa.sepaphoto.org/

Andrew Trimble gets smashed by Manu Tuilagi and Mike Tindall. Pic: Ken Sutton

This article has been floating around in my head over the last week and may be wishful thinking on my part, I’m still not convinced if it is true, but I’m going to put it out there and see if it gets some discussion going…

Ireland have lost all four of the World Cup warm-up games where they were expected to win three from four, at a minimum. They have dropped from 4th in the IRB rankings to 8th in one month, this is their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. While there have been marked improvements in the set-piece, their once best-of-breed backline has now turned into the teams major weakness. It has looked sterile and bereft of ideas in the last few games, offering little or no penetration and seemingly no game plan. This beggars belief when you look on paper and see the caliber of players that have made the team sheets in the last 4 games: O’Driscoll, Earls, Fitzgerald, D’Arcy, Bowe, Trimble, Kearney, Murphy are all players that any team in the world would be envious of, but yet when combined in the current system they look one-dimensional. Does this strike anyone as strange?

What if…
Ireland purposely have been selecting strange combinations in the backline, They have played a total of 6 players in the centers over the last 4 games, even out half Jonathan Sexton got a run out against France in the 12 jersey. What if the backs have been told to tone it down, nothing fancy, just ship it wide as part of Declan Kidney’s masterplan. These are players that have won the Heineken Cup and Magners League last season and it’s a backline that failed to unlock the Scottish defense even once. Could it be plausible that Kidney has kept all his cards close to his chest on purpose. Is this the big plan to catch Australia unawares?

Besides the opening 20 minutes against France in Dublin, Ireland have hardly produced one decent backline move. They have scored 3 tries in 4 games, two of those coming when the French had all but given up. Jonny Sexton is the only Irish back to get a try in four games. As far as I can see there can only be 2 explanations for this, either Alan Gaffney (backs coach) actually does not have any kind of game-plan, or, the players have been deliberately told not to give anything away.

We are all fully aware what Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Beale and O’Connor can do after their Tri-Nations series victory, But what do Australia know about us if they review our last four games? They have no idea what the starting half-backs will  be, they won’t be sure of which centers will start against them. They will surely be expecting an easy ride.

Leinster were second highest try scorers in the Magners League last season with Munster and Ulster at joint fifth. You don’t forget how to score try’s in the space of a few weeks. Of our best centers, O’Driscoll has been wrapped in cotton wool and D’Arcy (top performer in the last Six Nations) is playing so quietly he looks as if he has been sedated before games. Could Gaffney and Kidney have planned this?

Ireland are going into this World Cup as write-off’s, completely under the radar. They will field a second string team against USA and should beat them, but is it possible that they could come out all guns blazing against the Aussies a week later and perhaps create a huge upset? Of course I’d love if this were true, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Am I delirious/dreaming? Leave a comment!





ninetyninecall – Interview with Stephen Ferris

17 03 2011

ULSTER
– Heineken Cup quarter-final is on the 10th April against Northampton Saints in Franklin’s Gardens, Do you hope to be back in time, any update on the injury?
“Well I have started back running last Monday, fingers crossed I get a couple of good fitness sessions in over the next few weeks and try and get back onto the pitch, that’s the target for the minute”

– Have you been keeping an eye on Northampton’s recent form? Since January they have only won one Premiership game out of seven – What do you think of this slump in form?
“Yeah, they have, but they are a pretty good team with a lot of internationals to return into their squads, they’ll get a couple of wins before we play them I’m sure of it. It’s gonna be a tough game but we’re definitely up for it, it’s been all the talk around Ulster for the last 6 weeks or so, we’ll go over there and try and put a bit of pressure on them.”

– Ulster this season have been strengthened by the signings of Springboks (Muller, Wannenburg, Pienaar along with Botha) how have they settled into Ulster lifestyle?
“Brilliant, they are really loving it Ruan and Johann Muller are having an awesome time at the minute, really settled in and enjoying their rugby, All playing well and they are a good inspiration for the rest of the lads as well”

IRELAND
– I have to ask your opinion on the line-out incident in the Wales last weekend, the players must have been gutted to have such a poor refereeing decision go against them?
“Every supporter and fan is feeling slightly robbed, small decisions like that in test matches are the difference between winning and losing, and unfortunately we lost. I think if something like this was to happen at a World Cup, it would be a laughing stock. It is something that’s really hard to take for the lads, but I’m sure if we get a win this weekend, it’ll be quickly forgotten about!”

– Next weekend’s game against England, sure to be an intense battle, the lads will not need any extra incentive to get fired up, what has he thought of England’s performance so far in the 6N?
“That’s it, I’ve been asked a few questions tonight, ‘Will the boys be fired up? After last week being defeated, there is nothing to play for?’ – I say there is a lot to be played for, there’s a lot of pride at stake. You don’t want England beating you on your own home patch. England are a good side to play against and an even better side to beat. It’s gonna be a big game for us.

– What do you think about Will Greenwood claiming that England go into this game as Underdogs?
“He’s probably right, from my perspective, it’s gonna be a very tight game but I think that Ireland will come out on top!”

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk








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