Could We Dare To Dream?

Posted on October 2, 2011

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Rob Kearney celebrates after Brian O'Driscoll's try. It's his first try of the tournament.

Could we? Yes indeed we could. Should we? God, who knows? If anything can take our mind off of the constant doom, gloom and despair of this country’s economic situation; the crappy weather and, worse still, the race for the Áras; it’s our rugby team.

The win against Australia two weeks ago has ripped Ireland’s World Cup campaign wide open. Suddenly, like so many times before, the world has the potential of being a very sweet, succulent oyster and what’s more, it has the potential of being ours.

But should we really be jumping the gun so early? Should we be daring to dream, having only gotten out of the pool stages? Sure, we beat Australia and that’s a great achievement in itself.

But we were always expected to get this far. We were always expected to reach the quarter-final stages, albeit as the group runners-up. We’ve won nothing yet so what are we getting so worked up about?

Well, in my opinion, there are three reasons why we can justify getting a little bit excited about this team and their chances at this World Cup.

The first is the path to a potential final. The win over Australia, followed by the convincing win this morning over a difficult and cynical Italian team ensured that we finished top of the pool. That, in turn, ensured that we would avoid all of the southern hemisphere teams (also the top 3 in the world) until a potential final appearance.

And, looking at our remaining fixtures and potential fixtures, I think everyone accepts the fact that, playing at our best, a World Cup final this year is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Wales will be a tough game next week – the Welsh always turn it on for us and they have a strong, dynamic squad. But a lot of them are young and there might be a certain element of inexperience and vulnerability there that our lads should be able to exploit.

On the other side, France take on England. While France are the infinitely showier team, their camp is in tatters with Marc Lievremont effectively cast as the ‘invisible man’. The English have come through the group stages playing largely boring rugby (much like they did in 2007 and 2003 in fact) but I still think that they will have enough in the tank to beat this French side. I was trying to figure this out for the last week but I can’t remember the last time that the French beat the English in a really crunch, ‘do or die’ game. If anyone can tell me, it’d be greatly appreciated but as far as I can gather, England tend to come out on top in them.

And that will suit us better. France is our current bogey team while England we have found very manageable for most of the last decade. I would be slightly worried about how England manage to stumble into World Cup finals and the fact that it seems to be almost written at the start of the competition that they will end up in the final. But, if we get to that stage against them, I fully believe that Ireland can rewrite that script.

The second thing that is in our favour at the moment is the momentum we are bringing into the business end of the tournament. Yes, we had a mediocre game against the USA but that’s effectively been chalked down as a warm-up game and it was better to play ourselves down before going out into the huge undertaking that was Australia the following week.

Today’s match will have given the team a great boost, particularly the back row who were sublime in the second half. There is also a great strength in depth at the moment. The argument will rage on over the Number 10 shirt with both O’Gara and Sexton offering very different attacking options to the team. I have a feeling Kidney will revert back to Sexton for the Welsh game.

Kidney was able to bring on Reddan, Trimble and Ryan today. He can also call on players like Isaac Boss, Fergus McFadden, Geordan Murphy and Leo Cullen among others. Those, in addition to the current fifteen, the likes of O’Connell, O’Driscoll, Heaslip and the powerhouse that is Sean O’Brien, gives Ireland a huge selection to choose from and, unlike Eddie O’Sullivan four years ago, Kidney has plenty of options to instigate a ‘Plan B’ game plan.

"We worked our arses off..." Sean O'Brien was Man of the Match against Italy today.

The third thing that I think is absolutely invaluable to any team playing so far away from home is the support in the stand. Today, like the Australia game, the stand was full of Irish. It’s sad in a way that there are so many of us over there. In another sense, it’s great that they were able to come and support the team with such vigour.

There was a particularly lovely moment in the match this morning when Declan Kidney paid tribute to the supporters who were there because they had to leave their own country due to how bad things were. He doesn’t talk much but when he does he says all the right things.

So, with next week’s crunch game coming up, I like to think that Ireland are in a solid place for that match. It’s an early start but for one day, it can be braved.

Brian O’Connell tweeted during the Australia game, “Could Ireland be 20 minutes away from the end of the recession?” Sporting achievement and economics have, in the past, gone hand-in-hand in Ireland.

But if nothing else, some sporting achievement would give the country a psychological lift that it so desperately needs.

We are 80 minutes closer to the end of the recession. And then another 80. And then another 80. When you look at life in terms of rugby matches, it doesn’t seem quite so bad, does it?

To adapt Leinster’s slogan: Be seen; be green, believe.

 

Come on Ireland.

NOTE: I couldn’t finish without mentioning Tom McGurk’s yelling of ‘BOOM!’ when watching back over one of Stephen Ferris’s tackles today. He’s not half getting into it, is he?

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