Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Peter Bills' World Cup blog: Batten down the hatches for a long day

Fans will be polishing off fry-ups to gear up for what will hopefully be a day of partying after Ireland play Wales in the Rugby World Cup

Prepare for a short night and a hell of a long day!

Another mad decision by the IRB, to stage the Ireland v Wales World Cup quarter final with a 0600 kick-off time back in the UK and Ireland, means ingenuity is the order of the day tomorrow.

My pal Niall in Belfast sends me heart warming news about the arrangements being put in place to see the big game.

‘My club - Dungannon (home of Stephen Ferris, Stu McKinney, the late Jimmy Davidson, Willie Anderson, Jeremy Davidson to name but a few) is serving full Irish breakfast from 5.15am - bacon, sausage, egg, fried soda bread, potato bread, mushrooms and tomato and a pint of stout, to be finished by several more of the same. Match over by 8am? Promises to be a very long day.’

If Ireland win, my God, he’s right. There are going to be some corpses littering the drive up to the clubhouse.

I guess it’s going to be the same at a lot more clubs too around Ireland. Maybe in Wales, too. But there’s nothing quite like a fry up and a pint of stout to get you going in the morning. Imagine reaching lunchtime after a start to the day like that – you’d think it was midnight by then!

But here’s the big question. Can the boys do it? That’s the question everyone has been asking me this week here in New Zealand. Don’t ask me, I’ve replied – I see it as a straight 50-50. Wales are a good side and they’ve played some outstanding rugby at this World Cup.

They deserved to beat South Africa and but for that single point defeat would still be unbeaten, like Ireland. But Ireland too have been a credit to this World Cup. Their side has really cut the mustard and I’m certain of one thing – they won’t want to go out now and make the long flight home knowing that they never got further than any Irish side before at a World Cup.

This team has the chance to make history and they’ll be fiercely determined to do so.

It has been great to see Ireland and Wales carrying the northern hemisphere flag because otherwise it would have been in the gutters down here. England have been a disgrace, on and off the field. What they are producing in a playing sense mirrors perfectly the chaos going on behind the scenes at Twickenham.

France have been hopeless, fighting with their coach and looking disinterested. Marc Lievremont has picked another barmy side for this weekend’s quarter final against England, but who knows with the French – this may be just the time they will spark and fire.

It is virtually impossible to pick a winner between Ireland v Wales and France v England. Any of the four could go through.

There is also some uncertainty about the South Africa v Australia quarter final which I will see in Wellington on Sunday evening our time. You tend to think the Springboks will have too much up front for the Wallabies. But don’t forget, it’s only about 7 or 8 weeks since Australia beat the ‘Boks AND the All Blacks to win the Tri-Nations.

They could surprise the South Africans, but somehow I doubt it. The only certainty among the four ties is that New Zealand will squash Argentina.

So who will be the semi-finalists? I think it will be New Zealand v South Africa and Ireland v England.

Reach for the tin hats for both games, I’d suggest. And so to the airport for the flight down to windy Wellington.

Have a great Friday night and an even better Saturday.

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