Ireland (Pool C)
Best World Cup Performance: Quarter-Finalist (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003)
Last World Cup: Pool Phase
Current IRB Ranking: 8
TAB Odds: $35.00
World Cup Pedigree
Of all the established nations, Ireland has quite possibly the worst World Cup record. They have never once qualified for the semi-finals and on two occasions (1999 and 2007) failed to make the last eight. Indeed their last World Cup campaign in France was a disaster. The writing was on the wall when they struggled past Pool minnows Namibia and Georgia before unceremoniously being dumped out by France and Argentina.
Road to the World Cup
Qualified on virtue of being a top-12 nation.
Ireland stumbled through an inconsistent Six Nations campaign by narrowly edging Italy and Scotland in-between being dealt narrow losses to France and Wales. Their only saving grace was a morale boosting 24-8 hiding of England in the last weekend of the competition. Before the World Cup, Ireland will play five warm-up matches in August, including two Tests against France and one against Italy and England.
Brian O'Driscoll - At 32-years-of-age his best days may be numbered but there is no question that the Irish captain, and blockbusting centre, remains the most important force in his team. When O'Driscoll fires, Ireland invariably follow as was proved in the resounding Six Nations win over England. It may bethe 112 Test veteran's last trip to New Zealand too, and in a country where his disapproval precedes him - thanks to him being on the end of an infamous spear tackle on the 2005 Lions' tour - he will be keen to have the last laugh.
Jamie Heaslip - The powerful 109kg Heaslip has developed into an outstanding loose forward and has the reputation in the Northern Hemisphere of being the best number eight going. A strong ball-runner and competitive at the breakdown, Heaslip was influential in Leinster winning the Heineken Cup earlier this year.
A Kiwi Connection
Former Waikato halfback Isaac Boss was born in Tokoroa but qualified to play for Ireland because his grandmother was born in Glenarm, County Antrim. He has only played three minutes of international rugby in the last four years but on the back of a stellar season for Irish powerhouse club Leinster, Boss is now set to play in his second Rugby World Cup.
Something you probably didn't know
The Irish rugby team is one of a few national sporting teams on the island that draws widespread support in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and from both nationalist and unionist communities. As a result the Ireland team has had three national anthems over their history: 'Amhrán na bhFiann' is sung in Dublin, 'God Save the Queen' in Belfast but since 1995 a specifically composed anthem, 'Ireland's Call' has been used by the Irish in away games.
Chances of winning World Cup
If Ireland can reproduce the commanding form that denied England a Grand Slam then they have a sniff but the problem with the side is you never know what you're going to get. 15 players from the Heineken Cup winning Leinster club and 14 players from the traditionally strong Munster club have been named in their extended squad and that suggests they do have the personnel to make some noise. Strong upfront and now settled with Jonny Sexton as their 10, the question comes back to consistency. Their pool match against the Wallabies shapes as the key clash; win and momentum and self-belief will grow, lose and the Springboks await in a quarter-final impossible.
Ireland's Rugby World Cup Squad:
Forwards - Rory Best, Tony Buckley, Tom Court, Sean Cronin, Leo Cullen, Stephen Ferris, Jerry Flannery, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Denis Leamy, Sean O'Brien, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, David Wallace
Backs - Isaac Boss, Tommy Bowe, Gordon D'Arcy,
Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Geordan Murphy, Conor
Murray, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Ronan O'Gara, Eoin Reddan,
Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace
Ireland's World Cup History
1987 World Cup New Zealand/Australia
25 May 1987: Wales beat Ireland 13-6 in Wellington (Pool 2)
31 May 1987: Ireland beat Canada 46-19 in Dunedin (Pool 2)
03 Jun 1987: Ireland beat Tonga 32-9 in Brisbane (Pool 2)
07 Jun 1987: Australia beat Ireland 33-15 Sydney (Quarter-Final)
1991 Rugby World Cup
06 Oct 1991: Ireland beat Zimbabwe in Dublin (Pool 2)
09 Oct 1991: Ireland beat Japan 32-16 in Dublin (Pool 2)
12 Oct 1991: Scotland beat Ireland 24-15 in Edinburgh (Pool 2)
20 Oct 1991: Australia beat Ireland 19-18 in Dublin (Quarter-Final)
1995 World Cup South Africa
27 May 1995: New Zealand beat Ireland 43-19 in Johannesburg (Pool C)
31 May 1995: Ireland beat Japan 50-28 in Bloemfontein (Pool C)
04 Jun 1995: Ireland beat Wales 24-23 in Johannesburg (Pool C)
10 Jun 1995: France beat Ireland 36-12 in Durban (Quarter-Final)
1999 World Cup UK/Ireland/France
02 Oct 1999: Ireland beat USA 53-8 in Dublin (Pool E)
10 Oct 1999: Australia beat Ireland 23-3 in Dublin (Pool E)
14 Oct 1999: Ireland beat Romania 44-14 in Dublin (Pool E)
20 Oct 1999: Argentina beat Ireland 28-24 in Lens (Quarter-Final Play-Off)
2003 World Cup Australia
11 Oct 2003: Ireland beat Romania 45-17 in Gosford (Pool A)
19 Oct 2003: Ireland beat Namibia 64-7 in Sydney (Pool A)
26 Oct 2003: Ireland beat Argentina 16-15 in Adelaide (Pool A)
01 Nov 2003: Australia beat Ireland 17-16 in Melbourne (Pool A)
08 Nov 2003: France beat Ireland 43-21 in Melbourne (Quarter-Final)
2007 World Cup France/UK
09 Sep 2007: Ireland beat Namibia 32-17 in Bordeaux (Pool D)
15 Sep 2007: Ireland beat Georgia 15-10 in Bordeaux (Pool D)
21 Sep 2007: France beat Ireland 25-3 in St Denis (Pool D)
30 Sep 2007: Argentina beat Ireland 30-15 in Paris (Pool D)
Most Appearances: Brian O'Driscoll - 13
Highest Point Scorer: David Humphreys (7 matches - 70 points - 11 conversions, 15 penalties, 1 drop goal)
Highest Try Scorer: Brian O'Driscoll - 6 tries