Just 48 hours to go to the game that will define Ireland’s World Cup.
Victory for Declan Kidney’s men here on Saturday night in Auckland would put the cat among the pigeons in Pool C. It could even catapult Ireland forward towards the semi-final and who knows where else.
But defeat would almost certainly condemn them to a meeting in the quarter finals with South Africa. Mind you, given how close Wales came to toppling the Springboks maybe we should stop believing that such games are likely to have inevitable outcomes.
How about Canada’s wonderful victory over Tonga yesterday? And best of all, Kieran Crowley’s Canadians did it by scoring tries, the best way of all.
Right now, you’d have to say just about every team here would be viewing their next opponents with suspicion and muttering among themselves ‘Be careful. We don’t want to be the next team toppled by outsiders’.
It’s good for rugby that this is happening. The last thing this World Cup needed was a repeat of some of the past 145-3 or 89-0 thrashings inflicted on the smaller countries. Sure, Samoa put 49 on Namibia this week but generally the once called ‘minnows’ are making a good case for their inclusion with some stirring performances.
Was there much difference between Scotland and Georgia yesterday? Not that I could see, apart from goal kicking.
So whoever wins the Ireland v Australia game won’t take for granted their qualification. Ireland, for example, still have to play Italy and the last time they met them they should have lost, in Rome, in the 6 Nations match in February.
This one is the biggest of the weekend, although South Africa v Fiji earlier on Saturday morning (your time) could be mighty interesting too. When they met in the 2007 World Cup in the quarter finals, Fiji got it back to 20-20 with a great comeback and the Springboks were rocking.
In the end, they pulled clear but I think the Fijians are a better side now. They seem to have much more structure in their play which they have always lacked before.
The rugby celebrities are flocking to Auckland to see the game; well, the Australian ones, anyway. The Wallabies’ 2003 World Cup coach Eddie Jones is flying in today from his base in Tokyo to watch the game. And David Campese will make his second trip across the Tasman from Sydney to see the match.
I bumped into ‘Campo’ in the media centre at Eden Park last Friday night and it was great to see him again. Can’t remember how many years ago it was he asked me to write his autobiography, but I still remember the fun we had doing it.
He came to stay with me and my family for a while and we used to go running through the fields from my home in Kent where we lived at the time. That long ago, I could still run a bit and had done the London Marathon! But Campo’s idea of running and mine hardly coincided. Still, he always pretended I was keeping up with him at his best.
Good man, Campo. I’ve always liked him and am proud to call him a mate. He sure could play a bit, too...