Declan Kidney’s men are just 80 minutes away from becoming the first Ireland team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. An unchanged side will go into battle against Wales, with captain Brian O’Driscoll predicting ‘an incredibly close game’.
2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL: Saturday, October 8
IRELAND v WALES, Wellington Regional Stadium, 6pm local time/6am Irish time (live RTÉ Two/Setanta Sports Ireland/UTV)
Team News: Hooker Rory Best has been named to start for Ireland in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Wales at Wellington Regional Stadium.
With Best having recovered from the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, Sean Cronin will assume the reserve hooker role among the replacements.
Best’s inclusion means the team is unchanged from last weekend’s 36-6 victory over Italy which confirmed Ireland’s presence in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Keith Earls, who has scored four tries in his last two games, and Ronan O’Gara, who will be making his 116th appearance for Ireland, both feature in a potent back-line.
Donncha O’Callaghan will win his 80th cap for Ireland in the second row, joining pack leader Paul O’Connell who passed the 80-cap mark earlier in the tournament against Australia.
Continuing on that theme, Saturday’s quarter-final will mark the 80th time that Brian O’Driscoll has captained Ireland at Test level. He has led the side to 52 wins so far, including six victories over Wales.
O’Driscoll will be playing against Wales for the 14th time, equalling the Ireland record against the Welsh set by Mike Gibson between 1964 and 1978.
It will be cap number 25 for in-form prop Cian Healy who turned 24 on Friday, while Sean O’Brien, who was acknowledged as the Player of Pool C, links up again with Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip in a combative back row unit.
Meanwhile, the selected Wales team shows four changes in personnel to the side that beat Fiji in their final Pool D game.
The fit-again Shane Williams, Wales’ record try scorer, returns to the back-three with George North moving to the right wing and Leigh Halfpenny repositioned to full-back. The player to miss out is Lee Byrne.
In the centre Jonathan Davies is back to partner Jamie Roberts, taking over from his Scarlets colleague Scott Williams who drops to the replacements bench.
Up front, Dan Lydiate has recovered from an ankle injury to get the nod at blindside flanker over Ryan Jones, who also provides cover from the bench.
The final change comes in the second row where Alun Wyn Jones comes in to partner Luke Charteris, with Bradley Davies again retained as a replacement.
Stephen Jones has missed out on selection in the matchday 22. James Hook has proven his fitness and will provide cover for the backs along with Lloyd Williams and Scott Williams.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster).
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); George North (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues) (capt), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Lloyd Burns (Newport Gwent Dragons), Paul James (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Romain Poite (France)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 8/11; Draw: 22/1; Wales to win: 5/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Les Kiss (Ireland) – “This game is absolutely massive for both teams. We spoke earlier about what it would be mean to people back home if we won.
“We want to reach a place we’ve never been before. We’ve played each other so much that it is fair to say it’s 50-50. There will be critical pressure moments and it will be a 60-minutes plus game. The last 20 minutes will sort it out.
“It’s a hard one to pick. There’s been a lot of talk about the South Africa and Australia quarter being the game of the round, but watch this game.
“It’s going to a real ding dong battle but we’re happy with the way our defence has gone.
“Wales have some interesting threats across the park, which are a little bit different to what Australia offered when we played them in the pool. They have a good bunch of guys who are playing good rugby.
“Rory’s come up great and is fine to start the game. We obviously had some precautions in place ready to cover him if he failed to pull through, but he’s in tip top shape so full credit to him and the medics.”
Luke Charteris (Wales) – “I don’t think we have ever been bullied. To be bullied, what does that mean? I don’t think that side of it is in rugby so much, not at this level any more.
“You just don’t get away with it. It’s more you can be physical and tough at the breakdown, getting turnovers and things. But that’s something we have been good at recently and I don’t see that changing.
“When you come up against a highly-rated pair like O’Connell and O’Callaghan it means you just have to raise your game.
“I don’t think there’s any intimidating factor. If you do feel it, you are probably in the wrong sort of sport. The days of being intimidated in rugby are long gone. I have never been intimidated before or during a game.
“Look, teams may have tried that, but we will take a lot of confidence from how we have played against big and physical packs like England and Argentina, before we came here, and South Africa and Samoa.
“As a pack, I think we came out on top in most of those games so we’ll take a lot of confidence. Ireland will be another big challenge up front, that’s for sure.”
Pre-Match Links –
Previous Meetings –
Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.