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Ireland v Canada: All roads lead to the Millennium Stadium as Irish rugby fans get ready to roar on the boys in green

By Laura Abernethy

After months of anticipation, Ireland will take on Canada in their first game of the Rugby World Cup this afternoon.

Yesterday, airports were a sea of green as fans from across Northern Ireland began their journey to Cardiff to support the boys in green at the Millennium Stadium.

Like many fans, the Alexander family from Lisburn have been planning for this game for months.

Lynn and Richard, their daughter Sophie and their niece Ellie flew to Birmingham yesterday and then drove down to Cardiff.

Richard (40) said: "The tension is phenomenal. We booked our tickets six to eight months ago so we're so glad to finally be here at the weekend."

Daughter Sophie (16) is looking forward to seeing one player in particular take to the pitch. "I'm looking forward to seeing Paddy Jackson. I really like him. I met him at the cinema once and he was such a nice person and he plays well," she said.

With seven Ulster players in the squad, Northern Irish fans are particularly excited to see some home-grown players on the world stage.

Ellie Alexander (13) said: "I'm looking forward to seeing Rory Best. He's obviously from Ulster and it will be great to see him play over there."

Richard added: "Rory is always a favourite but I'm just so delighted that we have seven of the Ulster guys in the squad."

As the World Cup will be hosted by England and Wales, thousands of supporters are expected to make the trip across the Irish Sea over the next six weeks.

Tomas Mulholland (21), from Rostrevor, said: "The Canada match will be like a home game for us because there's not too far to travel. I can't imagine there will be too many Canadians at the game. It will be a good atmosphere."

Despite some lacklustre warm-up games, there is already plenty of confidence about how the team will fare against the best in the world. Tomas added: "I saw them at the Scotland game. They didn't have a full-strength team out so it will be good to see them playing their strongest game tomorrow.

"There's no reason why they can't beat anyone on their day and I think they'll get to the semi-final, if not further."

Paul Hutchinson (40), from Lisburn, has been following the team for years and thinks they may be in with a chance. "I'm expecting them to get to the quarter-final but I wouldn't be surprised if they got to the final," he said.

Other fans aren't so optimistic about their prospects. Christopher Hanna (24), from Killowen, said: "I think they'll win tomorrow but I'm not sure if they'll win the whole thing. We'll see how they do in the group stage."

Andrew Deane (21) from Derry added: "It will be quite hard for them to win overall but I think they should be quite comfortable in their group. The big match will be when they meet the All Blacks but with a bit of luck, they could do it."

Belfast Telegraph


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