Irish Eyes Are Smiling
The infectious glint in Irish talisman, Brian O’Driscoll’s, eyes when interviewed after their historic 15-6 victory over Australia at Eden Park, Auckland in the 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool C match last Saturday, was overwhelming. “I know there’s, you know, about 58-odd thousand people here and it felt like 57 of them were shouting for us”, the Irish captain said. Some dubious refereeing, that has become part and parcel of the modern game, has resulted in the first major upset of the tournament.
This is a world class event and permutations are what make this game such a spectacle. New Zealand’s thrashing of Japan on Friday, 83-7, matters little as their “big” Pool A match is against France next weekend. South Africa has already had a fright against Wales in Pool D last week stealing a victory 17-16, although they easily accounted for Fiji, 49-3, but the Springboks are yet to play Samoa (Sept. 30th). In Pool B, despite fierce opposition from the Georgian, the English easily won in the end, 41-10.
For those questioning why Pool D has been labelled, “The Pool of Death”, the fact that four of the five teams have made, at least the quarter finals on two occasions and South Africa has won the Cup twice. Wales, Samoa and Fiji have all had multiple representations in the quarter finals, with Wales coming third in the inaugural World Cup of 1987. No other Pool has such strength across the group with Pool B (& even C) possible the weakest. Wales have backed their strong performance against current World Cup champions, South Africa, last weekend with a win over a resurgent Samoan team 17-10 on Sunday.
The Irish have turned Australia’s Cup campaign on its head by reviving their form against England in the 6-Nations at Twickenham, where they won 24-8 on March 19th. Without mercurial open-side flanker, David Pocock, the Wallabies were dominated by the Irish back three of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brian and Stephen Ferris. Rocky Elsom forecasted in the Weekend Australian the morning before the match writing, “These three together form one of the most underrated trios in world rugby… I know these three are the real deal and Ireland will be relying on them.” The Irish still have to play giant killers Italy, who almost defeated them in this year’s 6-Nations, on October 2nd if they want to top Pool C.