Last night’s opener for the Rugby World Cup was a cracker (nice wee blow by blow by Hayden). Though as Bryn Palmer points out, it should not have been such a surprise: “Argentina had beaten France in four of their last five meetings, and that sole French victory came by a single point.” Victory in world rugby means adapting your game to each team as they arise, so we should be cautious about extrapolating too much from this turn of affairs. As Mick Cleary notes, it may have shaken up the tournament in just the way it needed: no one can take anything for granted. Least of all Ireland.Gerry reckons it’s good and bad for Ireland:
Good in that we will come into the French game on the back of two bonus point wins (we bleedin’ hope so anyway), with our tails up. France will have to win that game to stay in the competition, and if Irish heads can stay calm, we should be able to send them, er, home. The bad way of looking at it is that they will be fired up and seeing as Eddie O’Sullivan has yet to work out how to beat France, we could get annihilated on their bounce. We should still be able to beat the Argies, though. Their set piece wasn’t up to much, and if Ireland can control possession, then we should have the upper hand.
Considering the appetite Bernard La Porte has for chewing up Irish attempts at Six Nation glory, his French team cannot be discounted (and RTE)on last night’s poor display. But former Irish coach Warren Gatland has some interesting thoughts (subs needed) on how things might get shaken up a little further down the line:
Argentina’s win is a great result for Ireland and a terrible result for the All Blacks because New Zealand will now be thinking they might have to play France in the quarter final. It now gives Ireland a chance to win their pool because even if Ireland lose to France but beat Argentina they could still be in with a chance of being on top on points difference.
And he thinks O’Sullivan’s decision to play a strong squad against Namibia, is the right thing to do:
At the start of a World Cup you really want to get off to a good start. You can be sure they have been disappointed with their lead into the competition but this is now a chance to get their combinations right and to build confidence for the match against France, which they really want to target.
This is the right game to put out a strong team. Maybe next match against Georgia risk a few players but target France and try to win the group. Winning the group would mean missing the All Blacks in the quarter-final. I know that Ireland’s recent record against the French is not the best but if the team can get confidence from the first two matches, they can put themselves into a position to really, really tackle France.
The side is good enough to win the group. Sure, it was disappointing against Scotland and it was a lucky win against Italy with the controversial try but given the experience of this team and the number of caps they have throughout the squad, they are good enough to beat the other sides in the pool.
The Munster players in the pack, who have had the experience of winning the European Cup, will be very important. That could be quite a key. Because of that success they won’t fear the fact that it is France. In fact in many ways the poor run-in may take the pressure off somewhat. They might just slip in under the radar. Sometimes that’s actually a very nice way to begin.
It may be a case of whose legs are wobbliest at the knee come 21st September. For France at least, it could be sudden death.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty