England legend Matt Dawson backs ‘very capable’ side ahead of Rugby World Cup

Matt Dawson Credit: Alamy
Matt Dawson Credit: Alamy

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson believes Ireland are “very capable” of winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup as he hails their growth as a team.

Dawson, who won the global tournament in 2003, sees incredible solidity in the Ireland squad that will stand them in excellent stead in France later this year.

The Irish are currently ranked as the number one team in world rugby, which is where his England side was going into the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

Impressed with Ireland form

Dawson is full of praise for what they’ve achieved since Andy Farrell’s arrival as head coach, lauding how they have played successful rugby that’s “watchable”.

“They’re playing very watchable rugby,” the England great told Virgin Media Sport, with Ireland winning the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.

“Ordinarily, the coaches and players probably couldn’t give a damn whether it was watchable or not, if it’s winning then great. However, what you’re seeing with Ireland is watchable because the players are loving what they’re doing day to day, they’re loving their environment.

“You can just feel it within their interviews, the way that they play, how they warm up, how they relax, their downtime, the social media videos you see of them hanging out with one another; there is a very unique environment that Andy and his team have set up there.

“As much as people are going to argue that there’s a few months to go until the World Cup and a lot can change, to break that bond over the next few months is virtually impossible.”

Farrell named a 42-player squad recently that looked incredibly settled and Dawson insists that Ireland should not fear anyone in the 2023 World Cup.

Special group of players

“They’ve got something incredibly special that they’ve been building over the last 18 months to two years and they’re peaking perfectly,” he continued.

“They’re going to come across France, they’re going to come across New Zealand, they’re going to come across great teams if they want a chance to win it but my goodness me they’re very capable.”

Ireland are in the same pool as world champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania and kick off their campaign against Romania on September 9.

Dawson will, of course, be an interested observer of how England fare later this year and believes their draw at the tournament gives them a fighting chance.

Favourable side of draw

“I’m not going to stand here and say ‘England are going to win the World Cup’,” he said.

“I think they’ve got a chance and with the draw they have they should get to a semi-final. Then as we all know, all bets are off. You become superhuman. Teams have played five or six games, there are injuries, form; all these things come into play.

“But England are not going to be the favourites. Ireland, France, New Zealand and maybe South Africa are likely to be two of the teams in the final.

“Potentially an Australia, England, Scotland get into further qualifications with the bounce of a ball, a yellow card or whatever can happen. We know what this game can produce. Fingers crossed it happens for England but I think it will be a tough tournament for them.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the Rugby World Cup

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