Gary Halpin's one finger salute and Bordeaux bedlam - Ireland's opening RWC games

We’ve usually started with a win.

Wales 13 Ireland 6

1987 World Cup in New Zealand

Athletic Park, Wellington

Donal Lenihan 1987 Ireland skipper, Donal Lenihan leads out his team. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

MICK DOYLE’S IRELAND side went into their opening World Cup clash against Wales brimming with confidence having defeated Clive Rowland’s side 15-11 at the old Cardiff Arms Park in the Five Nations six weeks earlier.

That Irish side travelled to New Zealand without influential flanker Nigel Carr. Ulster back rower Carr, who was a key member of Doyle’s ‘give it a lash’ Triple Crown-winning side of 1985, was injured after being caught up in the blast of an IRA car bomb on his way to a training session in Dublin. Philip Rainey and David Irwin were also passengers in the damaged vehicle, but it was Carr who came off the worst as his injuries forced him to retire at age 27.

Ireland encountered further problems in New Zealand when Doyle suffered a heart attack in the early days of the tournament. As the Irish prepared for their Pool B opener against the Welsh in Wellington, Doyle was moved to a hospital in Auckland to recover.
An Irish team that featured the likes of Hugo McNeill, Brendan Mullin, Michael Bradley and Donal Lenihan established a 6-0 half-time lead thanks to two Michael Kiernan penalties in front of a half-empty stadium at Athletic Park.

But the Welsh struck back in the second half with a try from centre Mark Ring, a Paul Thorburn penalty and drop goals from fly half Jonathan Davies sealed a 13-6 victory.

Irish XV v Wales: Hugo McNeill; Trevor Ringland, Brendan Mullin, Michael Kiernan, Keith Crossan; Paul Dean, Michael Bradley; Phil Orr, Terry Kingston, Des Fitzgerald; Donal Lenihan (C), Willie Anderson; Philip Matthews, Derek McGrath, Brian Spillane

Ireland 55 Zimbabwe 11

1991 World Cup

Lansdowne Road, Dublin

Nick Poppelwell on the break 1991 Nick Poppelwell on the break. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Drawn in Pool B with Japan, Scotland and Zimbabwe, Ireland headed into the tournament on the back of an uninspiring Five Nations campaign having crashed to defeats against England, France and Scotland with a 21-21 draw with Wales securing their only point of the championship.

Ulster No 8 Brian Robinson scored four tries with loosehead prop Nick Popplewell bagging a brace as the home side romped home in their World Cup opener against tournament minnows Zimbabwe at Lansdowne Road.

Electric winger Simon Geoghegan and centre David Curtis also crossed for Ireland.

Ireland XV v Zimbabwe: Jim Staples; Simon Geoghegan, Vince Cunningham, David Curtis, Keith Crossan; Ralph Keyes, Rob Saunders; Nick Popplewell, Steve Smith, Des Fitzgerald; Donal Lenihan Neil Francis; Philip Matthews (C), Gordon Hamilton, Brian Robinson

Ireland 19 New Zealand 43

1995 World Cup

Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Jonah Lomu 1995 Jonah Lomu of New Zealand earns the attention of four Ireland players. Source: INPHO

On 27 May in 1995, the world was introduced to Jonah Lomu as the giant winger caused havoc against Ireland in their Pool C encounter at Ellis Park. It was a day for debuts as ‘Ireland’s Call’, penned by Philip Coulter, got its first outing as the new national anthem.

Ireland came firing out of the blocks against the All Blacks with tighhead prop Gary Halpin barging through Jamie Joseph and Mike Brewer for an early try.

Halpin, who also represented Ireland in the 1987 World Athletics Championship in the hammer throw, then made his infamous middle finger salute to the All Blacks pack following his score but it was all one-way traffic after that as a Lomu-inspired New Zealand ran riot with Frank Bunce, Josh Kronfeld and Glen Osbourne all crossing while the 20-year-old sensation grabbed a brace himself. Munster flanker David Corkery crashed over the corner late on, but the damage had been done.

Ireland XV v New Zealand: Jim Staples; Richard Wallace, Brendan Mullin, Jonathan Bell, Simon Geoghegan; Eric Elwood, Michael Bradley; Nick Popplewell, Terry Kingston (C), Gary Halpin; Gabriel Fulcher, Neil Francis; David Corkery, Denis McBride, Paddy Johns

Ireland 53 United States 8

1999 World Cup

Lansdowne Road, Dublin


Keith Wood, Dion OCuinneagain and Paddy Johns 2/10/1999 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Warren Gatland’s Ireland began their World Cup campaign with seven-try thumping of the US Eagles in Dublin.

Keith Wood crossed for four tries with a young Brian O’Driscoll and London Irish winger Justin Bishop also getting on the scoresheet along with a penalty try for the home side. Tougher Tests would await, however, with eventual champions Australia arriving at Lansdowne Road the following week.

Trevor Brennan, Andy Ward, Dion O’Cuinneagain packed down together in the back row that evening; a trio forged from Leixlip, Whangarei and Cape Town.

Ireland VX v United States: Conor O’Shea; Justin Bishop, Brian O’Driscoll, Kevin Maggs; Matt Mostyn; David Humphreys, Tom Tierney; Peter Clohessy, Keith Wood, Paul Wallace; Paddy Johns, Jeremy Davidson; Trevor Brennan, Andy Ward, Dion O’Cuinneagain

Ireland 45 Romania 17

2003 World Cup

Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

After negotiating a surreal World Cup qualifying campaign against Russia and Georgia, which included a 16-hour journey to play the Russians in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia – Eddie O’Sullivan’s side began with a comfortable, but sloppy display against Pool A minnows Romania.

The Irish pack were bulldozed in the first scrum of the contest by the powerful Romanian frontrow of Petru Balan, Razvan Mavrodin and Marcel Sociau, but they recovered with tries from Wood and Shane Horgan and the boot of David Humphrey’s helping them to a 26-0 half-time lead. Denis Hickie crossed for a brace after the break with Victor Costello barging over from a close-range scrum. The Romanians, however, had the final say with centre Valentin Maftei crossing late on. The Wallabies would put 90 points past the Romanians later on in the group stages.

Ireland XV v Romania: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Kevin Maggs, Denis Hickie; David Humphreys, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Keith Wood (C), Reggie Corrigan; Malcolm O’Kelly, Paul O’Connell; Victor Costello, Keith Gleeson, Anthony Foley

Ireland 32 Namibia 17

2007 World Cup

Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

Brian O'Driscoll and Tertius Losper Brian O'Driscoll scores a try despite the efforts of Tertius Losper. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Oh dear. A worrying warm-up series involving a thumping defeat by the Scots in Murrayfield, a farcical clash with Bayonne in the south of French – in which Brian O’Driscoll suffered a fractured sinus thanks to a punch from lock Makaera Tewhata, followed by a controversial 23-20 win against Italy in Ravenhill did not inspire confidence heading into the tournament in France. Not to mention those awful jerseys.

On a balmy evening in Bordeaux, O’Driscoll got his side off to the perfect start as he chipped ahead and regathered his own kick to get Ireland on the board with just four minutes played. Andrew Trimble and Simon Easterby added tries before half-time as Ireland lead 20-3. O’Sullivan’s troops were awarded a penalty try just after the break before the Namibians struck back with well-worked tries from Jacques Nieuwenhuis and Piet van Zyl. Subsitute hooker Jerry Flannery went over for a late try to put the result beyond doubt.

A scrappy and unconvincing win, but this was only the beginning…

Ireland XV v Namibia: Girven Dempsey; Andrew Trimble, Brian O’Driscoll (C), Gordon D’Arcy, Denis Hickie; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy

Ireland 22 United States 10

2011 World Cup

Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth

Declan Kidney’s class of 2011 touched down in Queenstown and opted to spend in the week in the spectacular south island ski village before moving the operation to New Plymouth to prepare for their Pool C encounter with Eddie O’Sullivan’s US Eagles.

After slumping to four successive defeats in their warm-up Tests, and losing David Wallace to a knee injury, Kidney handed a 22-year-old Conor Murray his first Test start for the World Cup opener while Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien were held back for the following week’s seismic clash with the Wallabies at Eden Park in Auckland.

On a bitterly cold and wet night, Ireland stuttered to a 10-0 half-time lead thanks to a late Tommy Bowe try following a deft inside pass from Jonathan Sexton.

Rory Best powered over from a driving maul before Bowe added a second with Ireland looking to secure the precious bonus point in the final 20 quarter.

But it was Eddie’s Eagles, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who had the final say as veteran centre Paul Emerick intercepted Gordon D’Arcy’s wayward pass to race clear.

Ireland XV v United States: Geordan Murphy; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Tom Court, Rory Best, Mike Ross. Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Stephen Ferris, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip

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