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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Test Match Countdown: Three Days To Go

Test Match Countdown: Three Days To Go

…All Eyes On O’Driscoll…Jutge The Man In The Middle…Millar – Chief Of ‘Les Chiffres’…Say What?…Numbers Game…

ALL EYES ON O’DRISCOLL: Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll will command plenty of attention over the coming weeks and it was no surprise, given his star status and recent injury worry, that the Leinster centre was mobbed by the media and locals alike on arrival at Bordeaux Airport.

The Irish squad were welcomed to Bordeaux by a party of local dignitaries and upwards of 50 local school children who waved IRFU and Ulster flags to symbolise the unity of the four provinces.

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As a red beret was popped onto his head, O’Driscoll said: “Sunday’s a big game for us and it’s an opportunity for us to set out our stall. We are playing against opposition that we would expect to beat but I think the performance has to be very good to show what we are here to do.

“It’s not until you finally touch down in the country where the competition is taking place that you get the feeling that you’re actually involved in the World Cup.

“The enormity of it has hit home now and we’re looking forward to that now,” he added.

Should he feature for Ireland in Sunday’s clash with Namibia, O’Driscoll will be making his tenth World Cup appearance and first as team captain. He is one try short of equalling Keith Wood’s Irish World Cup try-scoring record of five tries.

JUTGE THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE: The referee for Sunday’s Ireland v Namibia encounter in Bordeaux is Frenchman Joel Jutge, who is the only match referee for the 2007 tournament from the host nation.

He is no stranger to the Irish players, having been put in charge of a number of Heineken Cup and Six Nations matches previously. Born in Lavaur in April 1966, this is Jutge’s second World Cup. Having quit his job with an electricity company, he is now a full-time referee.

In total he has refereed 29 Test matches to date, with his first game between Spain and Fiji in August 1999. His last Test was the England v Wales warm-up match on August 4, while he was in charge for Ireland’s historic win over England at Croke Park earlier this year.

Munster fans need no reminding that he refereed the infamous ‘Hand of Back’ Heineken Cup final between Leicester and Munster in Cardiff in 2002.

MILLAR – THE CHIEF OF ‘LES CHIFFRES’: IRB chairman Dr. Syd Millar produced an array of impressive figures at the Rugby World Cup organising committee’s welcoming press conference on Wednesday.

Millar, the former Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and Lions prop, took the Paris press conference by storm as he rattled off a series of numbers which left you in no doubt as to the growing popularity of rugby and the much-anticipated World Cup.

According to the former Ireland manager, 10,000 people watched Australia’s first training session for the tournament, 5,000 turned up in Marseille to welcome the New Zealand squad and quite staggeringly, 3,500 spectators watched the Portuguese national team train.

Millar said: “The game has come a long way since the first World Cup in 1987. Then we had 600,000 tickets sold but up to this morning (Wednesday), 2.1 million tickets have been sold for this tournament.”

The 2007 World Cup, which is set to be watched by a television audience of four billion, is expected to generate in excess of 90 million pounds sterling in profit – 95% of which will be ploughed back into rugby at all levels.

SAY WHAT?:

“It has not been easy for our squad because they have had to take a lot of holiday time (from their jobs) in order to prepare for the World Cup. We have twice been away for two weeks and when the players left for France, a number had to put in a day shift before the night flight.”

– Namibian Rugby Union chief executive Christo Alexander explains the difficulties the Namibian players have faced in their preparations for the World Cup

“I loved watching New Zealand, loved watching Jonah Lomu run over the English in that semi-final. I remember we went out in the front garden – myself and my brothers Ultan, Eddie and Emmet – and we were straight away into it, ploughing over each other. Everyone had their turn as (Mike) Catt but I’d say I came out worst off.”

– Ireland lock Donncha O’Callaghan discusses one of his fondest World Cup memories – the 1995 semi-final between England and a Jonah Lomu-inspired New Zealand

“Namibia doesn’t have a professional set-up like South African rugby has or all the bigger playing countries. So it’s difficult to get real full-time professionals.

“It’s a big financial thing for us to get players over here and to join us on a full-time basis. Anyhow, we’re going to try our best.”

– Namibia prop and captain Kees Lensing on how his team are going to give their all in their upcoming World Cup campaign

NUMBERS GAME:

68 – The number of points Ireland out-half Ralph Keyes scored when he was the 1991 World Cup’s top scorer. That equated to 16 successful penalty goals, seven successful conversions and two drop goal successes. The most points ever scored by an individual in a World Cup tournament was 126 by New Zealand’s Grant Fox in 1987

4 – The number of Ireland players who won their first Test caps during the 1999 World Cup – they were Bob Casey, Angus McKeen, Alan Quinlan and Gordon D’Arcy

21 – The number of World Cup matches that Ireland have played to date. Ireland’s record reads 11 wins and 10 losses – four of those defeats have been against Australia