The David Corkery column: Impressive Ireland have the momentum to push hard in the World Cup quarter-final

The David Corkery column: Impressive Ireland have the momentum to push hard in the World Cup quarter-final
Ireland were very impressive for long spells in their last Rugby World Cup group game. 

FORGET the pitch, the rain, the typhoon, the heat and the called-off matches.

Forget all the interventions from the fourth officials that are destroying the momentum of games and forget the self-embellishing tantrums from coaches afterwards when everything doesn't go their way.

Ireland’s last pool game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup was never going to be about the result.

Against a team like Samoa whose players are scattered around the world and only have a tiny percentage of the resources of Ireland, this game was all about one thing and one thing only, the performance.

I don’t know whether it's a case of Ireland’s overconfidence, the dull and easily predictable game-plan or lack of respect for the opposition but the displays to date have been well wide off the mark of where it needs to be if they are going to make it beyond the quarter-finals.

I still believe the Irish players will be packing their bags and heading for home after the next game. At least they will head into this quarter-final with a good amount of momentum and confidence.

To be the best in anything you do, you need to have a few ruthless characteristics flowing through your veins and for the first time in a long time Ireland showed their teeth in a game of substance.

The most pleasing aspect of the performance was that every time Ireland had the opportunity to score, they took it and never allowed Samoa gain any kind of foothold. 

The accuracy of everything the Irish players did, especially in the first half was impressive. While you can argue the fact that Samoa were never going to be good enough to win this tie, they 100% had the capabilities of making life incredibly problematical for the men in green.

The yellow card shown to Samoan hooker Seilala Lam after six minutes of play allowed Ireland a perfect opportunity to build on Rory Best’s third-minute try and by the 21st minute, the scoreboard was looking great and screaming Ireland 21 Somoa 0.

The red card shown to Bundee Aki for a head-high tackle will, unfortunately, be the biggest talking point. It is imperative that the Irish players try to forget about this as soon as possible and start looking at ways of dealing with a team that will do anything inside or outside the laws of the game to win.

Presuming that it is New Zealand we will be locking horns with next week, Ireland will need to produce a display of rugby that in my opinion is way beyond our capabilities. Before you go screaming and shouting about the thrilling displays against them in recent times, I need to remind you those games were not in a World Cup tournament.

I must also emphsaise that the All Blacks are only judged once every four years and everything that happens in between is done in preparation to win the World Cup.

Rugby is a sport where players will try everything within their powers to bend the rules and get away with as much as they possibly can. Deeply ingrained within the soul of every All Black is the trait that reads 'it's only cheating if you're caught'.

This is why they are the best in the world at what they do. They bring ruthlessness to a whole new level when it comes to winning.

Ireland's CJ Stander with Samoa's Kieron Fonotia. Picture: INPHO/Jayne Russell
Ireland's CJ Stander with Samoa's Kieron Fonotia. Picture: INPHO/Jayne Russell

Johnny Sexton’s existence on the field during this game gave you a perfect example of just how important he is if Ireland are going to have any kind of hope whatsoever.

There can be little doubt about it now that the Leinster man is, was and for as long as he is lacing up the boots in anger, will be Ireland’s most important player.

What most people do not see is what happens behind closed doors and what occurs in a dressing room before you take to the field. Just by having Sexton in the same room as the other players, it allows them to feed off the confidence that he shrouds himself in.

Apart from his place-kicking capabilities which are second to none, each and every player knows that by having Sexton pulling the strings they will always be presented with the best possible opportunity to win games.

Think of Sexton’s brain as a super rugby computer that can make millisecond calculations as to what the best outcome would be with the quality of ball he receives, and you might just about start to comprehend how important he is to any team he plays with. If he did have one fault it would be that he isn’t a Munster man!

Looking forward to next week’s team selection it will be hard for Schmidt to make any changes to last Saturday’s starting 15, Bunbee Aki excused. How do you leave players with the capabilities of Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Conway, Rhys Ruddock and Dave Kilcoyne off a team that you need to play at a level never witnessed before by any Irish side?

Yes, every single member of the 23-man matchday panel will be required at some point but if you are miles behind you could have eight Brian O’Driscolls all launched at the same time and it would have little effect on the final outcome.

Do I believe in miracles?

Not the religious kind, but sporting history have proven that they do exist.

We've seen the 17-year-old Boris Becker win Wimbledon, 1985, Nottingham Forest's triumphs, Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1 in 1999, Tiger Woods' incredible chip at the 2005 Masters, the 'Miracle on Ice', Japan's Rugby World Cup victories and so on...

So yes, they do exist, and I have no doubt that next week’s performance by Ireland will be their finest of the tournament, but I just can’t see them making it to the semi-finals.

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