Brilliant Ireland stay on track to pull off something special in World Cup

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOTHING seems to spook the greatest Irish rugby team of all time which is just as well given what’s coming down the tracks in Paris on Saturday – a meeting with the most fearsome force in the sport in the men in green’s bogey fixture.

In seven previous World Cup quarter-final appearances, Ireland have always come up short and on a couple of those occasions badly so, including in 2019 when falling heavily to the All-Blacks on a 46 to 14 scoreline. Furthermore, in the first 28 tests between the countries, New Zealand won 27 of them and drew the other.

It was a horrible record, but the rugby landscape is different now. Ireland have won four of their last six clashes with the All-Blacks, including an historic away series triumph last summer. They have also put together a record-breaking run of 17 consecutive victories, are the Grand Slam champions, and the number one ranked team in the world.

So far, they have been brilliant in the World Cup in France. Firstly, they beat the reigning champions South Africa for the second consecutive time and crushed the stunned Scots at the weekend. Gregor Townsend’s team were on an upward curve themselves and looked to have a fighting chance of ending their bad run against Ireland. Instead, the game was over at half-time.

We have often seen good Irish teams succumbing to pressure and hype in the past, but not this one. With the remarkable Johnny Sexton still pulling the strings, Ireland have taken their game to new levels of excellence in the World Cup. Their defence has been outstanding while they possess a serious cutting edge behind the scrum.

On a night when the admirable Peter O’Mahony reached a century of caps, Ireland hurtled out of the blocks against Scotland with a smashing James Lowe try inside 60 seconds. And though their opponents had long periods of pressure and possession in the opening quarter, never once did the Scots come close to breaching the Irish line.

Pictured: St James’ Paul Conroy on the attack against Matthew Barrett of Mountbellew-Moylough during Saturday’s Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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