It’s almost showtime. The Ireland rugby team will get their World Cup campaign underway this coming Sunday when they face an old friend, Eddie O’Sullivan and America in their opening match in of their Pool C group.
Much has been made of Ireland’s from coming into this World Cup, having lost all their four warm up games, however the time to perform is now and they have the chance to gain some much needed confidence with a win over America.
For Ireland to win a number of elements will have to be improved. Starting the game strongly, firstly, has to be much better than it was in the warm up games, particularly in the England, where Ireland were bullied off the park.
They cannot afford to start slowly, especially against an American team who will be fire up, given the game will be played on the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Support at the breakdown will also have to be on the money against the States. A feature of the warm up games was how little support players offered at ruck time. Quick, fast ball will have to be a priority for Ireland to gain momentum and the upper hand.
The selection of Conor Murray at scrumhalf adds a number of options to the Irish play. Murray will be looking to spread the wide as quickly as he can, to drag America over the park and create space for Brian O’Driscoll and co.
If Ireland is to win the game then one requirement will have to be there for the 80 minutes. Intensity. Aside from the opening salvo against France the lack of intensity that Ireland had to their play was striking.
They have to be first to everything against America. If they allow America a toe into the game, it could become very static and stop start, which would play into the hands of Eagle Eddie’s side.
Motivation could also come into play for some of the Irish players when the take the field at 7 am Irish time. Both Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe were left out of the World Cup squad, hard as it is to believe, by former coach Eddie O’Sullivan.
While both players have shone in that four year period, you feel that personally, along with Geordon Murphy, they would just like it to stick it to Eddie, on the stage where he never selected them to perform.
Ireland should win this with a bit in hand, with Australia coming down the road a week later, Declan Kidney will be looking for the “golden generation” to shimmer on the stage that their careers were made for. Ireland to win, but performance, and a warning shot to the rest of the competition, would be welcomed to.
Betting (Paddy Power): 1/200 Ireland, 80/1 Draw, 20/1 USA. Handicap odds (USA + 35pts) Evens Ireland, 30/1 Draw,
Forecast : Ireland to beat the handicap.
IRELAND v USA
Referee : Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth, On TV: RTE 2, ITV, Setanta tomorrow, 7am
15 (Leicester) Geordan Murphy
14 (Ospreys) Tommy Bowe
13 (Leinster, capt) Brian O’Driscoll
12 (Leinster) Gordon D’Arcy
11 (Munster) Keith Earls
10 (Leinster) Jonny Sexton
9 (Munster) Conor Murray
1 (Ulster) Tom Court
2 (Ulster) Rory Best
3 (Leinster) Mike Ross
4 (Munster) Donncha O’Callaghan
5 (Munster) Paul O’Connell
6 (Ulster) Stephen Ferris
7 (Leinster) Shane Jennings
8 (Leinster) Jamie Heaslip
Replacements : J Flannery (Munster), T Buckley (Sale), D Ryan (Munster), D Leamy (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), A Trimble (Ulster)
15 Blaine Scully (Unatt)
14 Takudzwa Ngwenwa (Biarritz)
13 Paul Emerick (Life University)
12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11 James Paterson (Highlanders)
10 Roland Suniula (Boston)
9 Mike Petri (New York AC)
1 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie)
2 Phil Thiel (Life University)
3 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
4 John van der Giessen (Unatt)
5 Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 Louis Stanfill (Unatt)
7 Todd Clever (Suntory, capt)
8 Nic Johnson (Unatt)
Replacements : C Biller (Golden Gate), M Moeakiola (Bobigny 93), S LaValla (Stade Francais), P Danahy (Life University), T Usasz (Nottingham), N Malifa (Glendale), C Hawley (Olympic Club)