The way Ireland are going World Cup triumph is no longer fantasy

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S finally beginning to dawn on us that Ireland possesses the armoury to capture the rugby World Cup. Well, this mightn’t be an eureka moment for some given that the men in green are the number one ranked team in the game and are on a record-breaking 16-match winning run, but they are looking the real deal in France so far.

Sure, they were expected to thrash minnows Romania in their opening game, but the ruthless way they dismantled the fired-up Tongans in Nantes on Saturday night was hugely impressive. Superbly coached, highly skillful and with confidence sky high, Ireland are arguably the team to beat.

Of course, we will know a lot more after this weekend’s massive collision with the reigning champions South Africa in Paris, but Andy Farrell’s squad is in scintillating form at present. You can see it in the body language and eyes of the players. They are in the zone and hugely focused; classic men on a mission.

Their old soldiers like Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Iain Henderson know this is last-chance saloon for them. This quartet won’t be featuring at another World Cup and out-half Sexton, who became Ireland’s record scorer against Tonga, will be hanging up the boots when the 2023 tournament is over.

Yes, Ireland have always had desire and ambition for previous World Cups, but this is the most talented team the country has ever produced. You don’t win so many consecutive matches, defeat the All-Blacks twice on their home soil, and complete the Six Nations Grand Slam without having a team of the highest quality.

For a small country where rugby is third in the pecking order behind the GAA and soccer in terms of playing numbers, that represents some achievement. After the opening two rounds of the World Cup, the Webb Ellis Cup appears to rest between Ireland, the Springboks, and the hosts France – just as we thought beforehand.

Pictured: Cappataggle’s Declan Cronin loses his hurley in trying to halt the progess of Gort’s Richie Cummins during Sunday’s Senior Hurling Preliminary quarter-final at Duggan Park. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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