Paris, Dublin, London (24/9 – 32)
Undefeated in 17 games in the last 15 months, Ireland has beaten every rugby union world champion, three of them twice – just for humiliation. Historically, the Irish never got past the last eight of a Rugby World Cup. In this year’s tournament they are on fire: fans have faith that Ireland will finally seize The Webb Ellis Cup on 28 October, final day of the struggle.
Low-scoring but epic: a 13-8 win over the defending champion South Africa in Pool B of the 2023 Rugby World Cup on Saturday – a brutal statement from the Irish. Poor flummoxed South Africa never knew what hit them: they had only conceded 3 points from their previous two games in Pool B (creaming Scotland and Romania). Not only did the Springboks not concede tries in those two games – in fact, they only conceded two tries in their last eight Rugby World Cup games.
Ireland managed to breach that defense with Mack Hansen’s try, the second time in the last 15 months that Ireland has walloped South Africa: a 19-16 win when the two sides met in Dublin on 5 November 2022, with tries from Josh van der Flier and Hansen.
Hansen succinctly declared what the win to his team means: “They are the defending champions and they know exactly what it takes to win this World Cup”. “To get a win over them is as good as it can get really. It gives us a lot of strength and a lot of belief.”
Ireland has every right to assume this year’s tournament will be theirs: hey, they are the current world number one, on a burning winning streak since July 2022. What a campaign: Ireland shellacked every rugby union world champion, three of them twice. Johnny Sexton and Co. whomped New Zealand 23-12 and 32-22 on July 2022.
In November 2022, Ireland snatched a 19-16 win over South Africa, a feat that they repeated last Saturday. In the same month, Ireland was triumphant 13-10 in a match against Australia. This year, Andy Farrell and his team managed to defeat England twice: 29-16 on 18 March at the 2023 Six Nations Championship and 29-10 on 19 August, for good measure.
The victory over South Africa leaves Ireland clear at the top of Pool B, aiming them at host France or New Zealand in the quarterfinal. Ireland already did the job on France at a humiliating 32-19 last February, at the 2023 Six Nations Championship.
Ireland glows with an aura of invincibility – but they’re on their guard. “It doesn’t get any easier at all. We’ll take this win and enjoy it for now, then it is straight on to the next,” said Hansen, pointing out that his side will switch their focus to Scotland on 7 October, to ensure their place in the knockout stages. “We have a tough week against a really good Scotland side and if we get the win there, and everything goes well, it’s either France or New Zealand.”
“We are glad to keep rolling and get another four points on the board, but we have to dust ourselves off now and remain focused on Scotland in two weeks’ time,” added Farrell. “As the competition goes on we’ll need to be better,” he concluded.
Yeah, win the battle but don’t lose the war.