Rugby World Cup France 2007

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ireland can make a great World Cup

It's really interesting to learn that Ireland is the best-equipped squad to challenge top-ranked New Zealand at next year's Rugby World Cup as former winners England, Australia and South Africa struggle for consistency. At least that's what many players say.

Coach Eddie O'Sullivan plotted wins over the Springboks, the Wallabies and the Pacific Islands as Ireland emerged from the November international series as the only unbeaten northern hemisphere nation. Defending world champion England has lost eight of its past nine encounters.

"I think Ireland are peaking at the right time" England flanker Lewis Moody told reporters after England's 25-14 defeat to South Africa at Twickenham, southwest London, two days ago. "They are playing the best rugby of their lives and they are probably pushing for a spot in the World Cup final."

In fact, New Zealand cemented its position as the World Cup favorite with victories over France twice, England and Wales this month. Graham Henry's team won 12 of its 13 matches this year, only once failed to score 20 or more points in a game and finished the November series with a 45-10 mauling of 2005 European Six Nations champion Wales.

"They're really efficient, they set high standards and that's why they're the best team in the world," Wales captain Stephen Jones told reporters. "The intensity we experienced out there is something we don't experience all year and somehow we need to generate that in our domestic competition and in Europe."

As we know, Ireland beat the Pacific Islands 61-17 yesterday, and they are finding form just as other nations seem to be losing it.

Yes, the Australian team drew 29-29 with Wales this month and edged past Italy after their overpowered forwards gave away five first-half penalties. World Cup host France shipped 70 points in two defeats to New Zealand in Paris and narrowly defeated Argentina 27-26 two days ago.

And the South Africans eased pressure on coach Jake White by rallying from 14-3 down to overcome England at Twickenham for the first time since 1997. In a bid to strengthen his pool of players for the World Cup, White rested seven senior players including Os du Randt and Percy Montgomery for the tour and picked youngsters including 19-year-old fullback Francois Steyn.