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Ireland cast Italy aside


Keith Earls

Keith Earls

Keith Earls

Ireland set up a mouthwatering World Cup quarter-final against Wales next Saturday by demolishing Italy 36-6 in a bad-tempered clash at Otago Stadium.

Knowing defeat against the Azzurri would send them home, the unbeaten Irish responded with a comprehensive victory which sees them conclude the group phase as Pool C winners ahead of second-placed Australia.

Keith Earls crossed twice in the second half to lift his total for the tournament to four, while captain Brian O'Driscoll also ran in an eye-catching try.

Winger Tommy Bowe was the unluckiest player on the pitch after having one legitimate touchdown disallowed and being refused a penalty try in the final throes of the game.

Ronan O'Gara celebrated his restoration as first choice fly-half by kicking 16 points and barely putting a foot wrong in a display that will surely see him start against Wales.

Many of Ireland's big-game players delivered with Stephen Ferris and Sean O'Brien, the man of the match, rampant and Gordon D'Arcy exploding back into life with his best performance for some time. Jonathan Sexton was on target for five points of his own.

The decision to select Conor Murray also paid off with the Munster rookie looking a class act, offering Ireland an attacking threat at scrum-half they have rarely possessed.

Italy were hoping to reach the knockout stages for the first time, but their limitations were exposed and they never looked capable of causing an upset, Mirco Bergamasco registering Italy's only points with two well-taken penalties.

Adding a sinister element to the showdown was Leonardo Ghiraldini's apparent eye-gouge attempt on Cian Healy, an incident that was missed by referee Jonathan Kaplan but will surely interest the citing commissioner.

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