Ireland the unlucky: will they ever win a quarter-final in the World Cup?

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru

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93 Have your say

    Joe Schmidt must wonder which leprechaun, blarney stone or banshee he needs to kiss.

    Having slain the indomitable All Black dragon, buried the vulnerable Boklings, climbed to a lofty ranking and won the respect of the rugby world for his well-drilled and brutally physical squad, he likely faces yet another quarter-final exit at the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

    For the unfamiliar, the Irish have appeared in all eight World Cups, made it to the quarter-finals six times, and never reached the semis.

    But won’t the world No. 3 sail through to the final four this time? Probably not, I say.

    Schmidt will look askance at Michael Cheika’s Wallaby pathway to the semifinals. Australia merely has to build more Pool D points than Georgia, Fiji, a qualifier from the Americas and the team the Wallabies love to beat: the Welsh.

    In between each pool match, Cheika’s men get 7-9 days rest.

    The smart money will be on the Wallabies to top Pool D and get nine days rest after the Georgia game before fronting France or Argentina in Oita, Japan.

    Cheika’s team will be favoured to roll either of these deeply dysfunctional sides; the Wallabies will likely have a fresh David Pocock back, as well as a more seasoned second row with a lethal backline.

    It is difficult to imagine Australia failing to reach the semifinals, where they will run into old friends South Africa or one of the Celtic tigers, Ireland or Scotland.

    All will be forgotten and forgiven: the rants, the record losses and the negativity.

    “Two World Cup grand finals in a row,” he’ll crow.

    Schmidt, on the other hand, has to decide whether captain Rory Best can make it to the Cup as a starter, try to keep CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony from tripling and doubling their IRFU salaries, respectively, by jumping to France, build caps in the midfield, cotton ball Iain Henderson, his three-star props, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, not become too predictable, and oh yes … beat Scotland on September 22, 2019, in Yokohama, or most likely face New Zealand in a quarter-final.

    There is also the tricky little match against Japan. In Japan. As 100 million countrymen watch.

    But even if Ireland beats the irrepressible Scots and tops the pool, they will almost certainly face the Boks.

    OK, the polite little Boklings were bullied in Dublin this year, but South Africa is never an easy out in the World Cup knockout rounds.

    The Boks have plenty of room to grow, with smarter selections and a new coach.

    Ireland may have peaked too early.

    And so one of rugby’s more surprising streaks may continue!

    Unless Ireland can find their luck.

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • December 1st 2017 @ 2:58am
      Buk said | December 1st 2017 @ 2:58am | ! Report

      The Irish are far smarter than that, to just look at the surface. You dig deeper, you find the Irish have won several World Cups right from the start, just that it is in the guise of another country

      NZ 1987 Gallagher, Fitzpatrick …
      Australia 1991 Horan, Lynagh …

      What my cousins have been telling me for years, they can’t be wrong 🙂

      (& my scottish cousins have sung the same tune)

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 8:48am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Haha! This appears to be SA’s plan, now, too! The only top team without Saffas is NZ.

        • December 1st 2017 @ 8:01pm
          JimmyB said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:01pm | ! Report

          Whose the Saffa/Saffa’s in the England squad Harry? There might be one, I just can’t think of anyone though.

          • Roar Guru

            December 1st 2017 @ 8:18pm
            Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

            By 2019, I’m thinking Don Armand and Michael Rhodes will be in the 31 man squad.

            Brad Barritt and Mauritz Botha were the old guard.

            There’ll be more; don’t worry.

            • December 2nd 2017 @ 12:30am
              David said | December 2nd 2017 @ 12:30am | ! Report

              Think there’s more chance Manu Tuilagi will stay fit for more than 4 consecutive matches this season than there is of either of those two being in England’s next World Cup squad.

              • Roar Guru

                December 2nd 2017 @ 1:32am
                Harry Jones said | December 2nd 2017 @ 1:32am | ! Report

                David, I’ve heard EJ say they’re both on the verge, and I know RFU is doing all they can to prevent both from returning to SA. But my main point is made by: CJ Stander, Josh Strauss, WP Nel, Rob Herring, David Denton, Byron McGuigan, Cornell du Preez, Richardt Strauss, Scott Spedding, Rory Kockott, etc.

              • December 3rd 2017 @ 12:22am
                David said | December 3rd 2017 @ 12:22am | ! Report

                Doing all they can to stop them returning to South Africa? Shouldn’t have to do much then ?

                I know Armand’s been talked about but your the first person I’ve heard mention Rhodes. I think Jones is going after younger guys anyway, testing out the Curry brothers and Underhill, and I can’t see Hughes, Billy V or Robshaw being discarded for the World Cup. Then we have to consider Itoje and Lawes can both play on the flank. As much as I admire Armand he’s right down the pecking order

              • Roar Guru

                December 3rd 2017 @ 12:51am
                Harry Jones said | December 3rd 2017 @ 12:51am | ! Report

            • December 3rd 2017 @ 4:24am
              adastra32 said | December 3rd 2017 @ 4:24am | ! Report

              Armand failed to make even the long list for the recent internationals. He is a fringe player so might have been expected to be given a chance to prove his case – as others were. Eddie might rate Rhodes but, like Armand, there is a long and growing queue for the back row positions.

              Barring injury crisis, it is difficult to see either featuring come 2019.

            • December 9th 2017 @ 2:31pm
              Ariki evans said | December 9th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

              mike Cat

              • December 9th 2017 @ 3:01pm
                JimmyB said | December 9th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Wow Ariki, I’m going to assume that you take really long naps. ?

    • Columnist

      December 1st 2017 @ 7:17am
      Nicholas Bishop said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      Ireland have a lot of very good young players coming through the ranks Harry – it’s not at all inconceivable that they could be better in two years time than they are now. Blokes like Furlong and Henderson up front and Garry Ringrose behind have not yet reached their prime, and there are some seriously good young players emerging at Leinster – Joey Carbery, Adam Byrne, Andrew Porter and James Ryan to name but four… Ireland will have every chance to break the hoodoo – so I wouldn’t rely on hocus-pocus to preserve SH dominance in 2019!!

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 8:32am
        Poth Ale said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        Indeed Nic. I’d have all the above on the plane to Japan if they keep it lit.

        My early guess on a RWC 31 squad would be:

        R Kearney, Earls, Stockdale, Conway, Byrne, Henshaw, Aki, Ringrose, Farrell, Sexton, Carbery, Keatley, Murray, McGrath, Marmion
        Healy, McGrath, Furlong, Porter, Best, Scannell, Cronin, Toner, Henderson, Ryan, Treadwell, O’Brien, Leavy, O’Mahony, Stander, Conan.

        Outlier 23: Kilcoyne, Herring, J Ryan, Roux, Dillane, Ruddock, van der Flier, Heaslip, Cooney, Bleyendaal, D Kearney, McCloskey, R Scannell, Sweetnam, Zebo
        Tracy, Buckley, Bealham, Kleyn, O’Donnell, Gibson-Park, R Byrne, Larmour.

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 8:49am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        It’s possible. Carbery looks super-skilled!

        But that Scotland match … the one to avoid NZ and only face SA …

        It’s like an early KO match!

    • December 1st 2017 @ 7:20am
      Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Really good read. I’m surprised how many have not picked up on what you have in this article re the WC draw.

      Compared to the last WC, where NZ had a free ride all the way through bar the Argies in pool play–and AU had the draw from hell–we’re lucky to have what we do. Must beat Wales of course. And perhaps they will be due one.

      But the other side of the draw with NZ, Ireland, Scotland and SA all bundled into it makes for some fun.

      Also, I think NZ would face England in the semi should seedings prevail; though I may be wrong…

      • December 1st 2017 @ 7:28am
        Andy said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        So the pool that provided two semi finalists was the weak one?

        • December 1st 2017 @ 10:58am
          Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          As you know, Andy, the Abs playing in pool play is a hell of a lot different to the Abs playing in knockout–24 years should be enough proof of that.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 1st 2017 @ 1:39pm
            piru said | December 1st 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

            There’s a strong possibility the All Blacks team will be different to the last NZ RWC squad not to win the tournament.

            Still trying to dine out on the old chokers line though huh?

      • December 1st 2017 @ 7:29am
        Jerry said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        I don’t think Ireland’s draw in 19 is that much more difficult than NZ’s in 15, to be honest. Yeah, Scotland is better than Argentina but SA (no offence Harry) aren’t any beter than France in 15.

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2017 @ 8:52am
          Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          SA has time (and DNA) to bounce back.

          • Columnist

            December 1st 2017 @ 6:37pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | December 1st 2017 @ 6:37pm | ! Report

            How are they going to do that with the political restrictions on their selection Harry? It does sound a bit “it will be alright on the night”!

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2017 @ 8:20pm
              Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:20pm | ! Report


              Nothing in Africa goes by the book.

              Rassie will be the coach; but he won’t.

              50% will not be 50%.

              It’ll be fuzzy.

              But in any event, there’s still enough cattle to smash into a KO match and take it.

        • December 1st 2017 @ 9:50am
          Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          Jerry – do you think Argentina in 2015 were as good as Scotland right now?

          • December 1st 2017 @ 9:56am
            Jerry said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

            “Scotland is better than Argentina”

            Yes. But not by that much – Arg in 2015 were pretty good, they beat SA in the RC, pushed NZ in the RWC and won a 1/4 final remember.

            And as Harry points out, SA in 19 could well be better than France in 15 (they’re not at the moment, but they can improve).

            But NZ didn’t have a particularly easy draw, by any means. Not Pool of Death, but they had a solid team in their pool and a potentially tricky 1/4. As it turned out, they ended up being the only RWC winner that played every other semi-finalist.

            • December 1st 2017 @ 10:55am
              Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

              Yeah, I thought Argentina in that WC was the second dark horse after AU. It was tight in that pool game up until the AB subs came on re the 60th minute. Actually, they were the better team up until that point. And they annihilated Ireland with a stadium packed with Irishmen (in Wales no less).

              Henry’s help in 2012 paid off in 2015. Good mix of traditional Argie play, coupled with a more expansive Sth Hemisphere style.

              * So Jerry any plans of any one coming out to the U.S for the 7s world cup next year? San Fran will put on a show. And I think this tournament could be a tipping point for U.S. rugby, with it being the fasted growing sport in the U.S. right now…

              • December 1st 2017 @ 3:54pm
                Jerry said | December 1st 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

                Unlikely, I’m not a big enough fan of 7’s to travel for it (and it’d be a tough sell for a family holiday).

            • December 1st 2017 @ 11:07am
              Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

              But let’s not forget that one of those semi-finalists got beaten by Japan. Though, as Harry points out, SA does step in cut-throat, play-off rugby.

      • December 1st 2017 @ 7:52am
        rebel said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        France – South Africa. Scotland – Argentina.

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 8:50am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Yes, I think OZ has a very nice draw.

        • December 1st 2017 @ 11:01am
          Connor33 said | December 1st 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          You betchya — and I think its the first time since 1995 where it is favorable. Losing to SA in that pool game changed that whole tournament…no poisoning in pool play, of course…SA beat us fair a square…or is that AU does not plead for excuses…

          • Roar Rookie

            December 1st 2017 @ 11:30am
            piru said | December 1st 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

            More that you weren’t good enough

          • December 1st 2017 @ 1:25pm
            rebel said | December 1st 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

            Have you been absent for the last few weeks?

          • December 1st 2017 @ 3:53pm
            Jerry said | December 1st 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            The first favourable draw Aus had since 1995 was four years later. They were worthy winners but they had a very easy pool and they got to play Wales (who hadn’t beaten them for 12 years) in the quarters.

          • December 1st 2017 @ 3:56pm
            ClarkeG said | December 1st 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

            No but you sure do more often than not.

        • December 1st 2017 @ 4:25pm
          dontcallmeshirley said | December 1st 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

          Although Aust had a difficult pool last time, they had it easier in the QF and SF.
          NZ had an easier pool but more difficult QF and in particular SF.

      • December 1st 2017 @ 2:52pm
        ClarkeG said | December 1st 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        Some might argue – as tough as Aust’s pool was they more or less got, not a “free ride”, but a free pass through the 1/4 final. 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2017 @ 7:23am
      Poth Ale said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      Ah here, Harry. It’s only the beginning of the season and you’re already getting our excuses in very early for RWC ‘19. And you’ve made a rookie mistake. You included the words leprechaun, blarney, and luck in your assessment. That’s an automatic strike out. No sane Irish person ever uses those words.

      Last time out, we were just making excuses when I said that losing your five top players for the quarterfinal was bound to have an effect. Every right-thinking Roar fan disabused me of this notion and said the replacement players should have been just as good. I had to swallow that particular bowl of tripe (SH flavoured) whilst the Roar cognoscenti crowed about an all-SH set of semifinals. Mind you, I’ve since held back on offering that wisdom to SANZAAR fans when their own teams have suffered losses, but I confess that I have been sorely tempted at times. :).

      Nonetheless, Schmidt, Farrell, Feek and Easterby (our glorious Oirish coaching team egged on by Messrs. Nucifora and Eddy) have taken the Roar fans sage advice on board and they’ve been busy developing a few more players since the Argie fiasco to have a more level quality 31-man squad for Japan. The remainder of the season with 6 Nations and Oz tour will tell a bit more about where they’ve got to.

      Don’t give up on us yet….

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 8:53am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        This is Ireland’s best chance, yet, no?

        Depth and confidence and a world class spine (2-4-6-8-9-10)

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2017 @ 8:59am
          Fionn said | December 1st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          World class at hooker? SOB would arguably be pretty close to making a world 15 also.

          • Roar Guru

            December 1st 2017 @ 9:12am
            Poth Ale said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

            I suspect he meant 3 not 2. They need a top class midfielder and a wing/FB to really cement it. Henshaw and Stockdale are my picks currently. Although Jordan Larmour is looking pretty tasty if Schmidt decides to look at him in green.

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2017 @ 9:21am
              Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

              Sorry; yes, 3.

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2017 @ 9:29am
              Fionn said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

              Do you think Carbery be there by 2019?

              Between Henshaw, Stockdale and Ringrose you’d suspect at least one will have really kicked on and entered that truly elite tier of players.

          • Roar Guru

            December 1st 2017 @ 9:12am
            Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

            SOB is the new BOD

            • December 1st 2017 @ 9:27am
              Jerry said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

              You mean he’s the new Irish guy who whines after Lions tours?

              • December 1st 2017 @ 2:49pm
                ozinsa said | December 1st 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

                Nice one

    • December 1st 2017 @ 7:27am
      Old Bugger said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report


      Cheeky read to arouse the Emerald Isle and yes, you have my attention when you say “The Boks have plenty of room to grow, with smarter selections and a new coach.”

      I gotta ask mate – what’s the oil on the new coach????

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 9:02am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Rassie Erasmus and defensive guru Jacques Nienaber return from Eire, and are reportedly looking at Deon Davids (the well-regarded Southern Kings coach) as Allister Coetzee’s titular replacement (but really, Erasmus will be the boss).

    • December 1st 2017 @ 7:36am
      Intotouch said | December 1st 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      I think that you’re wrong to put Ireland’s failure to reach a semi final down to bad luck. I think that Ireland have had average luck in World Cups but this lack of progression to a semi final is due to the nature of the competition and the preparation that other teams have going into it. Both of these things mean that Ireland’s ranking by world rugy is less indicative of success than it seems. It’s not misleading but it’s more true for the period between world cups than for the competition itself.

      Outside of a World Cup Ireland play at most five international matches over a six week period. Some players get injured over the course of this of course but less than during a WC. The World Cup Although depth of quality has in the team has improved over the the last fifteen years missing four significant players due to injury, something that happened in the last quarter final, has still had a huge negative impact. I think that Ireland, in the past at least, can less afford to lose players than other countries although Joe Schmidt is consistently working to develop depth in the squad so hopefully this will be less of a problem than in the past. Personally I think that the kick-chase game that Ireland is so good at is more likely to get players injured as they are leaping and falling to collect a ball. Apart from this countries like France and Argentina in the past only really got a decent length of time with their players leading up to a world cup due to club commitments so their quality leading into one is not truly measured by wold rankings.

      I do think that Ireland have greater depth now in every position than I’ve ever seen in the past so even with injuries effecting the first choice players they should improve and reach a semi final in the next world cup. Unless of course other countries overtake them in their own improvements.

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2017 @ 9:03am
        Harry Jones said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Good post.

        Scotland is improving at just the “wrong” time for Ireland.

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