Can Ireland use game management skills to end World Cup underachievement?

Can Ireland use game management skills to end World Cup underachievement? Ireland produced a fine Six Nations 2022 campaign by finishing second in the standings and winning the Triple Crown. […]

Can Ireland use game management skills to end World Cup underachievement?

Ireland produced a fine Six Nations 2022 campaign by finishing second in the standings and winning the Triple Crown. Andy Farrell has overseen a gradual rebuild of his ranks since the 2019 World Cup, but his team have not lost their potency in the competition despite the changes that have been made in key areas of the squad.

Ireland brushed aside England, Scotland and Wales in the Six Nations to win the Triple Crown for the first time since 2018. Only France got the better of Ireland during the tournament in their dominant surge to the Grand Slam. However, there was more than enough optimism regarding Ireland’s performances and from those in the Autumn Internationals to suggest that Farrell’s men could compete for the World Cup in 2023.

Ireland are showing their value at 9/1 in the rugby odds for next year’s competition, placing them behind France, New Zealand, South Africa and England in the minds of the bookmakers. Considering their form, it seems incredibly harsh that the Shamrocks are considered outsiders behind England for the World Cup, although Ireland’s recent history at the tournament has been underwhelming to say the least.

After entering the 2019 World Cup as the best side in the world and one of the leading contenders for the crown, Joe Schmidt’s men flattered to deceive on the grand stage. They were eliminated in the quarter-final stage by New Zealand in a crushing defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, who only a week later were stymied by England. It has been a problem that has spanned multiple generations for the Shamrocks. For one reason or another, they fail to perform under the bright lights of the World, despite repeatedly being the best or next best team in the Northern Hemisphere for the best part of a decade.

Ireland have taken talented teams into the 2011, 2015 and certainly the 2019 World Cups, but have failed to progress beyond the last eight of the tournament. No defeat was more painful than their collapse against Argentina in 2015. There’s no way that Ireland should have been beaten by Los Pumas, but an injury to Sexton loomed large, and they were pummelled 43-20 at the Millennium Stadium.

Farrell must conjure a way to get his team over the hump, and their performances in the 2021 Autumn Internationals and the 2022 Six Nations should give them hope that the next generation of talent, supported by elements of the old guard led by Jonny Sexton can finally land Ireland in the semi-finals and beyond.

Great teams have not necessarily won the World Cup or reached the final over the last five competitions. England’s side of 2007 certainly wasn’t a strong outfit, but were effective in knockout rugby, while the same could be said of the Australia team of 2015 that were eventually beaten by New Zealand.

It is a stain on Irish rugby that the nation has not progressed into at least the semi-finals of the World Cup. However, the game management of the team seems to have taken steps forward under Farrell and there could be hope to end their poor record in 2023.

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