Celtic cousins, Ireland and Wales, are scheduled to meet in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, in Wellington, on Saturday, October 8, 2011.
Before the tournament started, neither team was fancied by observers as capable of going very far, and between the sides, they have had just one semi-final appearance at the world cup, when Wales reached the last four, 24 years ago. But Ireland have been positively brilliant at this world cup; Wales have impressed too, nearly beating the much more accomplished South Africa team, in their pool.
Ireland appear to be the best bet from the European segment of the quarter-finals to appear in the final, this time around. They beat England in March, thereby preventing their neighbours from across the Irish sea from winning the grand slam; they also beat Australia in September.
That said, Ireland did not have the best of starts to their world cup campaign, with a non-too-impressive 22-10 win over USA. But with their solid defence, they are always a hard side to beat.
Wales are no pushovers, themselves, having beaten Ireland in March, and have an immensely talented team, with a new-found self-belief. They almost pulled off a shock win against South Africa in their opening pool match, eventually going down by a mere point. their last match was a 66-0 thrashing of Fiji, thereby underlining their class.
They won 19-13 against Ireland in the last match between the sides in the six nations tournament, after trailing at half-time. However, the win was made possible by a controversial lineout play by Michael Philips and the quarter-final encounter will give Ireland an opportunity for revenge.
Ahead of the quarter-final with Ireland, there’s some good news for Wales; full-back James Hook, wing Shane Williams , and flanker Dan Lydiate will all feature in the game, having returned to fitness from injury. The three players did not take part in their side’s last two games.
Ireland are expected to make a late call on Rory Best who injured his shoulder, during his side’s 36-6 win over Italy in their pool C encounter. Sean Cronin is expected to be his replacement in case Best doesn’t recover in time.
All eyes will be on Wales’ youngster, 19-year old George North, with the flying teenager a certainty in the Wales team, alongside either Leigh Halfpenny or Shane Williams.
This has the makings of an intriguing encounter between two motivated teams in good form, with Ireland holding a slight edge.
Ireland’s probable team: R Kearney, T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, K Earls, R O’Gara, C Murray, C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, S Ferris, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, D Ryan, D Leamy, E Reddan, J Sexton, A Trimble.
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An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.