Ireland can't get past World Cup quarter-finals in Japan, claims England's Will Greenwood
Former England star Will Greenwood thinks that Ireland will struggle to break their quarter-final glass ceiling at the World Cup in Japan.
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Ireland have never progressed past the last eight of the showpiece event, exiting at that stage five times. They enter the competition this time around with their strongest ever squad and coaching staff, with Joe Schmidt set to depart after Ireland's interest is concluded.
However, despite a favourable pool draw where they will be expected to emerge victorious against Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa, the quarter-final picture for Ireland is far tougher.
Schmidt's side are slated to face either New Zealand or South Africa in the knockout stages, which would represent Ireland's toughest ever quarter-final tie.
The All Blacks are aiming for a third World Cup success in-a-row while Rassie Erasmus has brought the Springboks back to the top table, winning the Rugby Championship after a few lean years.
With Ireland facing such a daunting challenge, Sky Sports pundit Greenwood struggles to see the team finally making the semi-final breakthrough.
Speaking to Game On on RTÉ 2FM, he said that even though Ireland are more confident than they've been after a very strong World Cup cycle, it might not be enough for World Cup success.
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"I know I’m talking to an Irish radio station here and I’m wary of saying it, but you can’t get past a quarter-final," Greenwood said.
"I think there’s a different mentality with Schmidt and this whole crowd but the only thing I’m looking at however is you lot are pooled with New Zealand and South Africa.
"So whether you win the group or come second, you’re going to play one of the hot favourites to win the World Cup. You’re not getting it easy are you?
"It’s such a tough tournament to win now, I think it’s stratosphere harder than it was in 1999 or even in 2003, there were only four teams that could win it then.
"Now I think you have an argument to say there are seven or eight. If anyone could predict the four semi-final teams in the correct order, pick the group winners and the quarter-final winners, I think you’re a better man than me."
Ireland face England this Saturday in their second World Cup warm-up game at Twickenham, as they look to avenge the heavy Six Nations defeat inflicted on them at the Aviva Stadium earlier this year. Greenwood thinks Eddie Jones' side are in a strong position heading into the tournament next month.
"We’re in good shape, no-one’s getting over-excited and I’m not tipping England to win this World Cup but I do believe that whoever beats England, I’d be backing heavily to win the thing."