Will Ireland Win The 2019 Rugby World Cup?
Road to Japan.
Prior to the Six Nations Championship, many rugby fans were touting Ireland for success at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Joe Schmidt’s men appeared to be the top dogs in the Northern hemisphere and boasted quality in almost every position.
However, at the end of the tournament, they had been beaten by both England and Wales and appeared to have been found out by their opponents. Despite expectations dropping, Ireland remains the third-best team in the world and feature quite highly in the rugby online betting with 888.
So can Ireland beat their quarter-final curse in Japan and lift the Rugby World Cup? If they can, who will be their key players? Read on to find out.
Form Is Key
International tournaments are all about form and consistency. Look back on any World Cup from the past two decades and in hindsight, it’s obvious who was going to win the tournament.
Most teams lead up to World Cups with sustained success and growth which is borne out of positive results. Ireland seemed to be well on track to follow that curve this time last year after they hammered New Zealand to become the most feared team in the world.
However, since then Ireland has seemingly taken their foot off the pedal and rested on their laurels. As mentioned above, Joe Schmidt’s team performed less than satisfactorily in the Six Nations, losing to England and eventual winners Wales.
Further to that, preparation for the World Cup has also been disastrous for Ireland. After squeaking their way to a narrow win over Italy at the beginning of August, Ireland were demolished 57-15 by England at Twickenham.
Two games remain before the World Cup (a doubleheader against Wales) in which Ireland will have to improve dramatically to regain any semblance of form ahead of the tournament. If they play to form and lose these games, it’s hard to see Ireland turning around their fortunes at the World Cup.
What’s Gone Wrong For Ireland?
There are two key areas of concern for Ireland at the time of writing, mentality, and defence. In recent years Irish fans have had the sense that their team does not fear England or indeed, any other team in the world game.
In their recent defeat to England, it was clear to see the fear on Irish player’s faces. There seemed to be no self-belief or courage in the team, and their impending sense of doom was confirmed by three first-half tries from the hosts.
That shone the spotlight on the defence, which has resembled a sieve in recent months despite the supposed hard-work of defensive expert coach Andy Farrell. The long-term successor to Joe Schmidt has been heralded as one of the best defensive coaches in the game.
Yet there is clearly something wrong with his execution, as Ireland conceded eight tries against England with none of their defensive tactics seeming to work. As the line-out faltered and the defence parted, a clear sense of panic spread throughout the team.
Unfortunately, those problems cannot be fixed quickly and will require some serious soul-searching from the coaching team and players. With time running out until the World Cup opener against Scotland, it seems unlikely that Ireland will go into the tournament as prepared as they would like.
Key Player – Johnny Sexton
34-year-old Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton will be key to Ireland’s hopes of success in January. For years he has been the focal point of the green machine’s team and he will need to call on all of his experience to arrest Ireland’s worrying slump in form.
Can Ireland Win The World Cup?
Despite the country’s slump in form a lot of Irish pundits and former players are still backing Ireland for success in Japan. Key to their assertions is the fact that Ireland prefers coming into tournaments as underdogs rather than favourites.
Owing to their recent results it’s clear that Ireland will be going into the tournament with lower expectations than they would have a year ago when New Zealand coach Steve Hansen labeled them as the team to beat.
In reality, this viewpoint seems to be nothing more than clutching at straws. All evidence available points towards a disappointing tournament for Ireland this time around.