RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015

A close shave for Ireland

Ireland, with Paul O'Connell (top) reaching for the ball against Italy, will have every motivation to beat France on Sunday to avoid a likely quarter-final clash with defending champions New Zealand.
Ireland, with Paul O'Connell (top) reaching for the ball against Italy, will have every motivation to beat France on Sunday to avoid a likely quarter-final clash with defending champions New Zealand. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

They let Italy come within a point before pulling ahead to win ugly, earn q-final spot

LONDON • Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was not pleased that his team's usual trademark accuracy went missing in Sunday's tight 16-9 victory over Italy but will take an ugly victory when it means securing a place in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland came through their first meaningful test of the competition, thanks to a Keith Earls try and Johnny Sexton's boot. But they were far from convincing ahead of a final-game shootout with France to decide who finish top of Pool D.

"I said last week that I'd take a one-point win, I'd rather not though and a one-score win is extremely tough on the heart but sometimes you do have to win ugly, particularly when you're up against very good teams," Schmidt told a news conference.

"We didn't play with the same intensity that we needed and that intensity was thrown back at us by an Italian team that were inspired today," he added.

HARD-PRESSED

We didn't play with the same intensity that we needed and that intensity was thrown back at us by an Italian team that were inspired today.

JOE SCHMIDT, Ireland rugby coach

Ireland had tempered expectations that have been steadily building over the course of two Six Nations championship wins by warning that the Italians, boosted by the return from injury of Sergio Parisse, would present a tougher challenge than many had predicted.

But Schmidt said Ireland made life tough for themselves by giving back so much of the ball to their rivals, allowing Italy to come within a point early in the second half before Sexton pulled his side clear.

With centre Jared Payne running again after injuring his foot, Schmidt said he would have a fully fit 31-man squad to choose from for Sunday's game in Cardiff.

Captain Paul O'Connell said Ireland would need a massive performance similar to other recent successes against France to prevail.

"It's probably a timely reminder of where we need to be," he said of Sunday's win. "There is so much quality in the rest of the competition and with France, if we turn over the ball to them with the forward carriers they have, the backs they have, we'll be in big trouble.

"When we've performed well and won big games, we've been very good at denying teams access by our good set-pieces, by our discipline, by our accuracy and we need to do that again next weekend."

Ireland and France both have 14 points from their first three matches and their showdown is almost certain to send the losers into a quarter-final against reigning champions New Zealand.

The winners may face Argentina who look far from a soft option after a convincing win over Tonga.

The Italians, however, are out of the running after their second defeat, having lost 10-32 to France in their opener.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel was at least consoled by the fact that his side could finally produce a performance of note at the World Cup.

REUTERS


RUGBY WORLD CUP

Pool D: Canada v Romania (11.30pm).

Pool A: Fiji v Uruguay (tomorrow, 2.45am), Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'A CLOSE SHAVE FOR IRELAND'. Print Edition | Subscribe