Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 March 2015

Ruthless Ireland march on

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Birthday boy Keith Earls of Ireland dives over to score a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Jonathan Sexton of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
An Ireland fan in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Italy fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates scoring a try with Ronan O'Gara (left) during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Ireland's Paul O'Connell gets tackled by Italy's Paul Derbyshire during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Ireland's Sean O'Brien tries to break through the Italy defence during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Donncha O'Callaghan
Ireland fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll kicks through as Italy's Gonzalo Garcia (right) attempts to block during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
Ireland fans in the stands wearing fancy dress during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Paul O'Connell of Ireland looks on as players prepare to scrum during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (C) is tackled by Fabio Semenzato of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates as he celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland is congratulated by teammates after he scores their first try, as Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy shows his dejection during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland (2R) is congratulated by teammates Rob Kearney (3R) and Donncha OÄôCallaghan (L) after he scores their first try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Tommy Bowe of Ireland (R) offloads the ball as he is tackled by Riccardo Bocchino of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Sergio Parisse of Italy (down) is tackled by Conor Murray (L) and Mike Ross of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (2L) is tackled by Salvatore Perugini of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Keith Earls of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Conor Murray of Ireland makes an attacking run during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland makes a break during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: An Ireland fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: A lone Italian fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Mirco Bergamasco, Mauro Bergamasco and Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy sing their national anthem ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy receives medical attention during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland tries to break from the challenge of Sergio Parisse of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Referee Jonathan Kaplan (R) talks with Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Alessandro Zanni of Italy (L) tries to break past Keith Earls of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland (C) cleashes with Gonzalo Canale of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy looks on during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland (C) eyes the ball during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Luciano Orquera of Italy kicks the ball clear during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

So who said the Celtic Tiger had lost its roar? Ireland and Wales set up the mother of all Celtic clashes in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Wellington next Saturday morning with supreme performances in their final pool games.



If Wales believed they had laid down a marker with their 66-0 demolition of the hapless Fijians in Hamilton, then Ireland more than matched that performance with their own five-star showing in Dunedin.

With perfect geographical symmetry, the two sides will now travel to Wellington for a collision that promises to be seismic.

Ireland must know they face a huge barrier to their ambition of reaching a World Cup semi-final for the first time in their history.

Wales are in prime form, their side a well balanced mix of power, pace and creativity, not to mention no little class.

The reunion of those great 2009 Lions team-mates, Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts, will inevitably hog the headlines of a clash to savour. But if Irish fans were justifiably nervous of confronting so good a Welsh team before they started their final pool game in Dunedin, then 80 minutes later they must have felt ‘Bring them on’.

This was one of Ireland’s best displays for years.

The Italians were sent packing with a brutal, clinical efficiency that has by no means always been an Irish trademark in recent times.

But from the start in Dunedin, there was a purpose and sense of business-like efficiency about Ireland’s game that bode ill for the Italians.

It was a sweet and sour, spicy affair. Blows were traded, Cian Healy (left) was eye-gouged, tackles were made with decapitation uppermost in these warriors’ minds and the players of both teams must have finished black and blue.

But the great triumph of Brian O’Driscoll’s side was that they more than matched the requirements of the immense physical battle before emerging triumphant to let their rugby do the talking. And once it came down to a matter of rugby quality, there was only one team to consider.

Ireland not only put such a pace and intensity on their game, they all but eliminated the frustrating, nagging errors that have so often bedevilled their efforts. Too often in the past, daft mistakes have ruined momentum, broken up the intended flow.

But this was an 80 minute performance that had total focus and concentration as its bedrock. The only possible criticism of Ireland you could make on the night was that they made a mess of three re-starts, an area of traditional muddle for them.

But that apart, what they produced on a stirring, pulsating night in New Zealand’s far south was close to flawless. Italy were ruthlessly shut out, especially once they were unfortunate enough to lose key tight-head prop Martin Castrogiovanni from their scrum after only 34 minutes.

His injury forced Italy to play the rest of the game with two loose-heads and Ireland exacted a terrible revenge. It was fiery from the start and never let up in that regard, with Healy at the forefront of the battle.

But as O’Driscoll said afterwards, you have to earn the right to play your rugby by gaining supremacy in the forward battle and Ireland did that superbly. None did better than Sean O’Brien, a worthy man of the match although Stephen Ferris was never far behind him.

Playing technically impressive rugby in every phase, Ireland simply overran their foes in a fantastic second half.

Increasingly, this Irish side is resembling a team of all the talents — physical, skillful, fast and furious with precision of execution. It was outstanding stuff.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre