The rankings, according to David Humphreys mean nothing. “The only ranking that’s going to count is the one after the tournament finishes.” he tells the Irish Echo’s Tom Felle.
Things can’t get much better for Ulster’s David Humphreys. A few years ago it looked as if his best days were behind him. But this year the 32-year-old
bounced back, better than ever, and Ireland’s top points scorer is now Eddie’ Sullivan’s first choice as out-half going into the rugby world cup.
The out-half is one of a handful of Irish players with world cup experience. He limped off the field in Lens four years ago when Los Pumas put paid to
Ireland’s hopes of making a quarter-final. Speaking to Tom Felle from Ireland’s seaside base in Terrigal today, the Ulster man said his main aim in 2003 was not to
repeat the mistake.
“It’s consigned to the history books, obviously you move on. Looking back it was a very, very disappointing few weeks for us, but we have an
opportunity now to go forward. This Irish team is now much better than it was four years ago. We’re much better prepared, much better organised, and we believe we can go out and do ourselves justice.”
The Dungannon man is looking forward to the next four weeks. “The rankings,” he says, “mean nothing. The only ranking that’s going to count is the one after the tournament finishes. It’s been a long time
coming, and this Irish team have worked hard for it.” But now it’s here he can’t wait to get started.
“For about six or eight months now we’ve been in training, waiting for this
week, with that focus in mind. It’s been raining all week so it’s
very much like home. Having said that it’s a fantastic setting for us. We’ve been looked after very well, everything has gone very well for us so far.”
Despite the seaside location, and the fact that most of the players have been taking advantage of what uncharacteristically little sun there
has been, Humphreys said he and the rest of the squad are focused on the job.
“We’re winding ourselves up for Saturday evening. Definitely, the build up to this world cup seems to be going on for a long time. Now that the game is
upon is, it’s what we’re all waiting for, what we’re all looking
forward to. Now it’s a case of going out and playing well.”
The warm up matches, while important, really didn’t count for anything, he said. It’s now the real test begins.
“Now we’re in the world cup and every game counts whether it be winning, bonus points or scoring tries.
First and foremost for us is winning.”
Romania will be no pushover he assures, and the Irish are taking the game
very seriously. The Romanians will be coming into the game all guns blazing hoping for an upset, and it’s up to him, and the 14 other players, to stop them.
“When you look at Romania, and how they are approaching the game, this is a
massive chance for them to come out and play against one of the top sides in the world and get a result. We know how difficult it’s going to be, we’ve looked at the tapes of
Romania over their past few games. We know the problems they are going to pose us, so we’re going to have to play well if we’re going to put them away.”
Romania, like most other European sides, are very physical. While they haven’t shone as a national side, many of their top players are regulars on
French club sides and have vast European Cup experience. That physical presence, he says, is something Ireland are preparing for.
“They are very, very big and very physical. If we don’t match them it’s going to be a very long and very difficult evening for us. At the same time we know that if we go out and play as well as we can, the result is in our
hands. We can make things difficult, they can make things very difficult for us, but if we play well, we’ll get the result.”
The draw, too, is an idea one for Ireland. Despite being in the so-called “Pool of Death” with Australia and Argentina, the relatively soft first two games before facing Argentina in Adelaide is a bonus. Humphreys agrees,
although he says today the focus is on Gosford.
“We prepared for each of the games throughout the summer. We
said that once we get into the match week and the world cup we would focus totally on the Saturday and that’s been the way it was this week. We’ve got a game plan put together and we hope it’ll do the business.”
So what will it be like finally walking on the pitch on Saturday after all the months of preparation?
“By Friday night it won’t matter whether you’ve played one or you’ve played 100 times for Ireland. I’m sure it’s the same no matter which international
team you’re playing for. Every international cap is massive and once you lose that nervous feeling, you probably need to be looking for something else to play.”