Considering the country is just 70,273 km square and has a population of just more than four million people, you would never have thought that Ireland could ever be put in the bracket of world champions. Simply, their country is too small, and therefore restricts their talent pool and prevents them from ever breaking into the upper echelons of sport.
However, times are changing. Right now, Ireland are without question the best team in Europe. They will be looking to make this superiority count in September, when the 2015 Rugby World Cup commences. With the “Boys in Green” currently occupying fourth place in the world rankings and top spot in the ongoing Six Nations, Ireland are the 4/7 with betfair to win back-to-back Six Nations this year, there is certainly enough supporting evidence to suggest that Ireland can do something at this World Cup. This would be much like the Welsh back in 2011.
So, do Ireland have the required skills to do well in the 2015 World Cup, or will it be a case of what might have been?
Now, winning the World Cup would be a sensational result for Ireland. Getting past defending champions New Zealand is going to be the hardest challenge posed to any team in the competition. Although the All Blacks are practically unbeatable, they are by no means certainties to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. Ireland will have a chance of success this year and here is why.
The number 10 is the best player in world rugby right now. People may point to New Zealand’s Dan Carter but the truth is that Sexton is by far the form player on the international stage. Carter’s battles with injuries have diminished his playing abilities ever so slightly and that has allowed ground to Sexton. That is ground which the Ireland player has exploited with great aplomb.
After a season with Parisian side Racing Metro, Sexton has agreed to rejoin boyhood club Leinster. This is big news for all of Ireland. Sexton was playing at his zenith while at Leinster, not Racing Metro, and Ireland will need him at his mercurial best if they are to stand a chance in England later this year.
In Sexton, Ireland know they have a scoring machine. If they are to have five penalties in a game they can bank on Sexton converting at least four of them. That is an indication of the talent he possess.
From key player to coach. Josef Schmidt has been at the Irish helm since 2013, and like Sexton has worked as a catalyst for success. Schmidt, who looks ever more likely to guide Ireland to successive Six Nations titles, has already fashioned a respected resume from his time with Leinster, as well as his first two years with the Irish national setup. Now, he’ll be hoping for further global success.
There are few coaches on the international stage who are as intelligent as Schmidt. The New Zealander is very much a fan of analysing every game as he tries to expose opposite teams’ pressure points. Once the 49-year-old has identified the points, he drills his team into exposing them during training. By setting up in this way, Ireland give themselves the ability to exploit foes.
Although there are no games being played in Ireland, you can be certain to expect the streets of Britain to be flooded by Irish fans. This is an opportunity too good to miss and therefore don’t expect those from the Emerald Isle to be absent.
With a relatively easy Pool D draw – France are the only real threat – Ireland should be able to make it to the knockout stages in a straight forward manner. However, from here they are going to need vociferous support to stand a chance of usurping the stronger and more gifted southern hemisphere sides. If the rowdy and patriotic Ireland fans turn up and give each game a real atmosphere, then Ireland could just get under the skin of the All Blacks or the Springboks and produce an upset.
They are very much long shots, but then it seems that Ireland are always long shots. They are plucky, talented, well supported, and fearless. This is an Ireland side who really could upset the apple cart.