As the Rugby World Cup in Japan approaches, we begin our build up with a look back at Ireland’s previous World Cup endeavours.
The 1999 world cup was partly hosted in Ireland with all three of their pool games being played in Lansdowne Road. Things went as expected in the early stages with Ireland defeating USA and Romania but losing to eventual champions Australia. That set up a Quarter Final play off with Argentina. It was to be the start of a long rivalry between the two nations at rugby world cups, and Argentina edged this first encounter 28-24.
2003 in Australia saw Ireland advance from a difficult pool in which they narrowly defeated Argentina 16-15 before losing by a point to the hosts in Melbourne. Things came to an abrupt halt at the quarter final stage however, as Ireland were dismantled 43-21 by an excellent French side which included Jauzion, Dominici and Michalak.
Ireland’s Darkest hour. Hopes were high that a team lead by O’Driscoll, O’Connell and O’Gara could finally take Ireland to a semi-final or beyond in a world cup hosted locally in France.
Things started ominously though, with Ireland struggling to narrow wins against minnows Namibia and Georgia. That was swiftly followed by a 25-3 demolition by the hosts in Paris and another defeat by old foes Argentina. That left Ireland third in Pool D and they were eliminated before the knockout rounds even began.
In what was to be O’Driscoll and O’Gara’s final world cup, Ireland travelled to New Zealand with high expectations. Those hopes were further fuelled by a fantastic result and performance against Australia in Auckland at the pool stake. That victory ensured what was regarded as an easier quarter final match against Wales, with the elusive semi-final berth seemingly within reach. Ireland yet again underperformed when it mattered most though and were defeated 22-10.
This was Joe Schmidt’s first Wold Cup as head coach and although captained by the imperious Paul O’Connell, it was a team now lead by half back pairing, Connor Murray and Jonathan Sexton.
Things began promisingly for Ireland as they cruised to victories over Italy and France to again top their Pool. The French win was tainted slightly by an injury to Sexton which ruled him out of the quarter final against Argentina.
Ireland were blown away in a dominant first half display by the Pumas. They conceded two tries in the first ten minutes and trailed 22-3 after the first quarter. Once again, they were going home at the quarter final stage.
Coming soon, our full World Cup preview and predictions.