Time for the fourth and final pool preview...I have decided to handle Ireland's Pool D myself, given I'll be writing up our matches anyway!!!
You know what, everyone is talking about Pool A but I actually think Pool D could turn out to be the most compelling of all the four World Cup groupings.
What...you want me to explain why? Aw….do I have to?
Can I not just leave you hanging with the mystery and maybe tease you into clicking on another link later to find out why?
Nah...that’d be mean wouldn’t it? Of course it would. But let me at least tease you a bit by going through the 5 teams first. No cheating by skipping to the end though, ok?
I have seen a LOT of the Canadians over the summer months, and very little of it is good.
Now I know that opening line seems cruel, but allow me to offer some context...I’m writing this preview as a totally-green-goggled Irish fan who firmly believes the boys in green are serious contenders at this tournament. Thus I feel the need to call it as I see it with the other teams, and on the evidence I have seen as they played the USA twice, Japan, Tonga and Glasgow, the Canadians are well below the required standard.
Of course they have threats in their team like experienced skipper Jamie Cudmore and provided they can buy the required space for their wingers they can certainly score some points, it’s just for every one they get you can see at least two coming back at them down the other end.
Clearly their match against Romania is the key one and the way the fixtures stack up it will be their final pool fixture while the Romanians will still have one left.
Sorry if it’s a worn out cliché but you really don’t ever know which France you’re going to get and if they really do intend to persevere with Freddie Michalak at 10 that point counts double.
But then you have the likes Huget and Bastareaud and Picamoles all capable of switching on at a moment’s notice even when all seems lost. They absolutely must hit the ground running against the Italians on Saturday, for it appears unlikely they will be able to bluff their way to the final for a second tournament in a row. (As I type that I have a feeling I might regret it though!)
I’m going to deal more with Ireland in my preview of the Canada match on Friday. But what I will talk about here is how we appear to be perceived by pundits from the rest of the world going into the tournament.
The general consensus is that we do indeed have many quality players but should anything happen to them, we struggle for depth. I don’t hear a whole lot said about the overall focus of the team and the way they both train and play together for Joe Schmidt, something that could prove those “no depth” allegations wrong. My theory is bound to be tested by LukeFitzgerald’s role on Saturday.
Didn’t impress me much during the warmups and without Parrisse against the French you can see them struggling. But with a decent showing in their opener followed by a win over Canada they could be well buoyed up when they play us. Whether that means they’ll actually compete or actually try some “funny business” to knock us off our stride like they did in 2011 remains to be seen.
In Luke McClean they have someone who can provide some spark, in Sarto they have genuine pace on the wing and in Campagnaro they have someone who can find a good running line. Vunisa at 8 can do a lot of the heavy lifting but for a squad that has had many troubles over the summer I can see them being short of their best as a group, though only against the stronger sides.
Totally shafted by the fixture-planners. France first on the Wednesday followed by Ireland on the Sunday? Chances are their confidence will be well dented before they even get a chance to start playing.
Romania didn’t have anywhere near as extensive a warmup schedule as did Canada, with their only proper test match coming against Tonga...I had a look at a recording of it and while they did run their opponents close towards the end, I didn’t see much evidence of this amazing scrum they are meant to have. Though to be fair, it’s tough to show off your scrum when your forwards are shipping a load of senseless breakdown penalties.
While there is perhaps a little scope for some upset by the Italians (though only if France and/or Ireland manage to be their own worst enemy), I can see this being one of those classic RWC pools where one team wins 4, another 3 another 2, and so on. I reckon Canada will draw a blank with Romania beating them and Italy overcoming both “minnows” and here is when things get compelling...
At 4:45pm on Sunday, October 11, Ireland v France will kickoff at the Millennium Stadium. When it does, should Pool D pan out as I think it will, all of the other 18 nations will know their fate from the pool stages and with the eyes of the entire rugby world watching, there will be only one thing left to be decided - who plays the winner of the New Zealand pool and who plays the runner-up.
That will effectively make the fixture as close to “knock-out” as possible and there could even be more tension involved than any encounter from the “Pool of Death”.
Since my ethos going into this tournament is #TrustJoe, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m expecting us to prevail and top the pool, though not without a few heart-wobbles along the way much as we did in both of our recent Six Nations triumphs.
And as an aside, shortly after that match concludes in Cardiff, the Republic of Ireland soccer team will kick off against Poland in what should be a decisive group qualifier of their own. I can see a touch of flu spreading the country the following Monday morning!
So that brings our pool previews to a close...check out the link to our “wallchart” in the sidebar to find out how our contributors see pools A B & C going.
Tomorrow, I will pen a preview for Ireland v Canada, and when it all finally kicks off, our aim is to have “8-0-reviews” for 36 of the 40 pool matches, plus of course full Monday match writeups for Ireland’s contests. Hopefully you will share your own thoughts as the tournament progresses...it promises to be an exciting month or two of rugby. Let's do this! JLP