Rugby World Cup: Sean O’Brien backs Ireland to get past the quarter-finals
Former British and Irish Lions flanker Sean O’Brien thinks that Ireland will get past the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time this year.
In the previous nine tournaments, Ireland have been knocked out of the competition in the quarter-finals on eight occasions and failed to reach the play-offs in the ninth (2007).
Ireland to break semi-final duck
This year could be different as Andy Farrell’s charges are currently first in the world rankings and have beaten fellow top 10 nations New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France, England, Scotland and Wales in the 12 months before the tournament.
O’Brien, who played in the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, feels that Ireland are in a better place now than ever to reach the semi-finals.
“I nearly think whereas, in past teams, we were always aware of the quarter-final thing,” O’Brien told The42.ie.
“Obviously, the Irish squad will be aware of it, but I don’t think it will mean much to them in terms of any weight of pressure or anything like that.
“World Cups are always different, so it gets to that stage where you rock up; it depends on who you have, and it’s another Test game. Do I think they will get past that? Yes, I do, with the way things are going.
“There will be another few lads who will be in that squad before it comes to that time of year who will strengthen it as well. There will be a lot of headaches for the coaches in the next five or six months, which is a great thing for Irish rugby. It will be exciting. Irish rugby is on a bit of a buzz at the minute. It’s good to see.”
Ireland do face a tough pool in the World Cup. They have been drawn in the same group as South Africa and Scotland. Farrell’s side are also on the same side of the draw as New Zealand, France and Italy.
Competition for places
The former flanker is currently working as Leinster’s contact skills coach also weighed in on Ireland’s current players and their form.
“I don’t think there are many people in danger right now, but there’s a bit of time to the World Cup,” said O’Brien on players potentially losing their place in the squad.
“The development of those younger guys coming through, there will be pressure on the older guys in the squad. That’s what you want, but it depends on who’s playing well at the time.
“Andy and the coaches will pick on form, there’s no doubt about that when it comes to it.”
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