World Cup to witness Boks v Ireland sequel?
SPOTLIGHT: Rugby fans could be in for a sequel to the memorable tussle Ireland and defending champions South Africa served up on Saturday with Irish lock Tadhg Beirne believing they can meet in the Final.
It may have been a low-scoring match – 13-8 to Ireland – but the top two ranked sides in the world served up a high-class physical encounter with the game swinging back and forth in favour of one team then the other.
Beirne put in another outstanding performance, even hoofing the ball down the field late in the game crucially eating up time and easing presssure on the Irish.
The explosion of joy at the final whistle said it all about how much the victory, albeit in a pool match, meant for the Irish players.
Beirne, though, thinks it has wider implications that could lead all the way to the Final on October 28 back at the Stade de France which is the only time they can meet again.
There is, of course, the match no one wishes to play in the third-place play-off but Beirne clearly had his eyes fixed on the battle for the Webb Ellis trophy.
“It’s a huge confidence booster,” he said.
“You know, we beat them back in November, they’re going to grow as the competition goes on, if we can keep going in the competition I’ve no doubt we’ll probably meet them again.”
The 31-year-old former Scarlets star, who had to wait till he moved to Munster in 2018 for his first cap as Irish policy forbade selecting players playing abroad, said Ireland had yet to produce a perfect display.
However, he says games like Saturday’s tussle with the Boks are helping them build towards that all-round perfect game.
“They’re a serious side, they have unbelievable individuals,” he said of the Springboks.
“It’s all about how we learn from it and get better.
“As I said, it’s about putting our patches together into an 80-minute performance and if we do that, we know we can beat any team in the world.”
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‘Aura in the squad’
Ireland may not yet be the finished article in terms of the perfect game but Beirne says the confidence is there that they will win, no matter the opponent.
A record 16-match winning run attests to that.
“I feel like we’ve earned it in not doubting ourselves,” he said.
“When we go into the game I don’t think there’s anyone in this squad that feels like we’re going to lose.
“There’s just this aura within the squad where we know we can do it.
“We just have to deliver what we’re good at. Thankfully we’ve been doing that in patches for a lot of games and that’s got us over the line.”
The line-out is definitely one area where the Irish will need to improve – they lost their first four against the South Africans.
Johnny Sexton blamed it on bad calls rather than poor throwing from hooker Ronan Kelleher.
Nevertheless, it is likely the fit-again Dan Sheehan, who came on for Kelleher in the second half, will start against Scotland in their final pool match on October 7.
“The line-out at the start of the first half, like if we had taken a few of those line-outs maybe it would have been a different scoreline,” said Beirne.
“But we’ll look at that and we’ll look at where we can improve it and it’s all about taking a step forward.
“I think there were a lot of opportunities left out there, you could feel it.”
Scotland can wait, though, as the players get three days to spend with their families before they refocus.
“Look, the next few days are huge,” said Beirne.
“We have them off but it’s not like we’re going drinking beer for three days, you know?”