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'A success would be getting into a semi-final... But that quarter-final is the big hurdle'

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey discuss Ireland’s World Cup prospects 15 days out from the tournament.

Ireland huddle at Carton House as the World Cup nears.
Ireland huddle at Carton House as the World Cup nears.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ON THIS WEEK’S The42 Rugby Weekly, Murray Kinsella and Bernard Jackman joined Gavan to explore the extremely slender margins that could separate failure and success for Ireland at the World Cup, which kicks off in just 15 days’ time.

You can listen to the podcast in full on either iTunes or your regular podcast provider, or via the SoundCloud link at the end of this article.

Murray: “Well, I suppose the first thing we have to do is probably define what is a successful World Cup. What is bombing? I think out in the quarter-final wouldn’t be a massive surprise really, would it? Given that you’re playing either South Africa or New Zealand.

“So, a success would be getting into a semi-final. I think that would be a good World Cup for Ireland, while obviously it would be disappointing to lose at that stage.

I guess failure would be losing to Scotland or Japan in the pool stages. But that quarter-final is the big hurdle. Joe Schmidt mentioned it again the other day: the players are utterly committed to getting beyond that hurdle. So, for me, one of the potential weaknesses for Ireland is that there is a psychological barrier that Ireland have never gotten beyond a quarter-final, and there’s that kind of narrative in your head.

“I heard Paul O’Connell mention it this week about how Irish players go into World Cups with that in mind. Whereas, say, France have a history of going to World Cups and causing upsets. Argentina have done really well having been not in particularly good places before World Cups. There is that massive psychological element of it. I definitely underrate that sometimes.

“I remember Rob Kearney last year saying, ‘We’re rugby players. We’re human. We have feelings and anxieties just like everyone else’. And those doubts probably creep into your mind. So I think that might be one of the barriers. You’ve got to break that at some stage, obviously. But mentally I think that will be a big thing for Ireland coming into it.”

robbie-henshaw Ireland training at Carton House. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Gavan: “And then, this Ireland team over the course of this World Cup cycle have gotten over plenty of those barriers. I mean, there was definitely a psychological deficiency when it came to the All Blacks — they’ve beaten them twice; winning a game down in South Africa, winning a tour down in Australia as well, so if there is a team that can break that kind of hoodoo, it should be this team, Bernard?”

Bernard: “Yeah, they’ve left markers over the last four years — kind of similar to Clive Woodward’s team in 2003. He said, ‘If we don’t go and beat these southern hemisphere teams in the lead-up to the World Cup, regularly and away from home, we’re not going to win a World Cup.’

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“I think Ireland have created milestones over the last four years. Talking about risk factor in the World Cup, the psychological risk is massive.”

Bernard then proposed another major risk factor for Ireland ahead of this year’s tournament: their physical preparation. You can listen to his thoughts on that and more via the link below.

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