Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rugby World Cup - last chance to get on the bus!

Ronan O'Gara - sign out of picture (picture )

Right, this is where things get really interesting, no more hiding your light under a bushel, get in there and prove you’re good enough for the next round!  Samoa have to knock down the biggest, thickest door in the tournament to stay in the tournament on Friday. They outmuscled the Australians pre tournament, can they do the same to the Boks? Beating the South Africans at their own game by taking them on physically is a mammoth task – most teams have profited by outsmarting them, which doesn’t seem to be nearly as difficult. While I have every admiration for the Samoans, and sympathy with their match schedule, I can’t see them having the tactics or the discipline to overcome the Boks, so that is them gone I’m afraid.

The Scots are in a similar position with a similarly sized door, if a bit paler, as they plot against the Auld enemy.  They can beat England, I’m sure of that. But can they manage to jump through the whole range of hops necessary for them to get through to the next round? They have beat England, score four tries, deny them a bonus point, climb the greased pole and eat the candy apple with their hands tied behind their backs. So Scotland are on the plane. They just don’t have the firepower to do what they need to do, they’re never going to score four tries.

Wales Fiji is a interesting one, but Fijians have had a pretty disastrous time of it with only one win, and not good performances in the two they lost. They beat Wales to make it into the next round last World Cup, but Wales are a different team these days, even without Hook and Lydiate. So no fairy tale ending this time, the Fijians to lose, and the princess to marry the frog with no spell on it.

Then it’s the last big match, and the only one where the underdog, Italy ,has any real chance. If Italy beat Ireland, and deny us a losing bonus point, that would be Italy and the Aussies on their way and us on the plane. We tiptoed past them in Rome in the Six Nations, wouldn’t they just love to go one further this time? They have the forwards to tie us up in knots, and realistically, we are one front row injury away from disaster. Our backs are far better than theirs though, and I’m actually expecting quite a lot from Ireland in this match, a statement of intent.

 It will be interesting to see who starts at fly half on Sunday. O’Gara is top class international, with excellent place kicking skills, and he’s brilliant at keeping the game in the other teams half. His running game is not of the same standard as his kicking though. His inside pass for instance- you know the sign board they use to let you know how many extra minutes are to be added on in a soccer match? It’s like there’s a man waving a sign board on the sideline saying ‘O’Gara is about to make an inside pass’, that’s how much notice the other team gets. Sexton is good positional kicker, and a great man running with the ball, getting the backline going. He tackles better than O’Gara as well. He falls down on his place kicking though, when he lines up a place kick these days, that’s the time to make yourself a cup of tea or get another beer from the fridge as you really can’t watch. I think we need a running game to beat Italy, so I’m expecting Sexton for the first 60 and O’Gara to close it out. That’s unless D’Arcy is out, in which case they may both start. The front row is going to be under massive pressure, but the players  I want to really stand up are O’Callaghan and Heaslip. Are we at the bus stop or on the bus lads? I think we’re on the World Cup bus, Ireland by 10.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O'Gara, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell; Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble.

And that's the team, bit surprised to see ROG and Murray but, who can argue with Kidney?
Fri - 30th Sep 11  
08:30 South Africa  vs Samoa

1 October:
Australia v Russia, Nelson (0330 BST)
France v Tonga, Wellington Regional Stadium (0600 BST)
England v Scotland, Eden Park, Auckland (0830 BST)

2 October:
Argentina v Georgia, Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North (0100 BST)
New Zealand v Canada, Wellington Regional Stadium (0330 BST)
Wales v Fiji, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton (0600 BST)
Ireland v Italy, Otago Stadium, Dunedin (0830 BST)

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