Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup: Chris Henry and Tommy Bowe can help Ireland conquer biggest Tests


By Willie Anderson

The World Cup is two weeks old but doesn't it feel like Ireland's competition is about to kick off?

Joe Schmidt's side have shown glimpses of what they can do so far but they weren't really tested against Canada or Romania.

There's no doubt they're building nicely but Italy will pose a greater threat this weekend and the big France game is right around the corner now.

Romania's four-day turnaround meant they were never going to put up much more of a fight than we saw from them at Wembley but, with 12 changes to the Ireland side, it was still a solid showing and wasn't it great to see Chris Henry and Tommy Bowe really making a case?

The back-row was all about taking your opportunities...Henry did, Jordi Murphy didn't.

The Ulsterman really outshone the other two and he'll be one who has given Schmidt something to think about when he picks his team for the Olympic Stadium.

The back-three were all outstanding but it was a performance that Bowe really needed if we were going to see much more of him in this competition.

He's a big game player and, with the bit between his teeth, you could see that the last two or three weeks have been hard on him.

He took his tries really well and when it comes to knowing what's required on this stage, there's no better option in that squad than Tommy.

Has he done enough to get back in the starting team for Sunday? We'll soon find out, but I'd love to see it.

I've not been impressed with Italy at all so far during this World Cup but every team here will have one performance in them.

They were poor against France, and could have lost to Canada last weekend if not for a few TMO decisions going their way, but you just can't rule them out.

Before Schmidt, Ireland have had one or two problems against them - who can forget the Six Nations in Rome a few years ago? - and if Sergio Parisse comes back into the mix then it really is a huge boost for them.

I don't think they're a team that will roll over and Ireland must be prepared to focus for a full 60 or 70 minutes... this won't be another one where we see the game won after half an hour.

Schmidt is not a man that leaves anything to chance, though, and he will have sized up the opposition well this week.

I just think Ireland will have too much for them.

I've watched the England versus Wales game three times now and, to be honest, I could watch it 100 times over and still not know how England managed to lose.

With an hour gone they were in complete control but they just seemed to lose all of their focus.

They lost Billy Vunipola, and then there were the Wales injuries, and all those stoppages and substitutions drained their momentum.

Afterwards, all anyone could talk about was Chris Robshaw but I could see the logic behind his thinking. As a captain myself, I certainly would have been taking the points and using those last three minutes to get the win but pressure does funny things.

One thing I certainly disagreed with was the call at the lineout. Throwing to the two instead of the tail when you need momentum... surely England have a better play up their sleeves for a moment as big as that.

It was interesting to see all the criticism aimed at Jared Payne this week and I just don't think it's fair.

Some people during this World Cup seem to enjoy screaming and shouting for the sake of it and you start to wonder if whoever was called upon to replace Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's greatest ever rugby player, was going to be knocked in the same way.

Payne's a man who is growing into the position and I think he's a really skilful player.

He was obviously an excellent full-back and maybe you get more time to be creative when you're playing at 15 but he's going well and I don't see anyone out there who would do a better job.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph