The World Cup Quarter Final line up is complete, England will play Australia at 8.15am next Saturday and then in the second quarter final Ireland take on New Zealand at 11.15am. Sunday will see Wales vs France at 8.15am and hosts Japan play South Africa at 11.15am.
Ireland had hoped if they had qualified to be playing next Sunday against either South Africa or New Zealand and after the 19-12 loss to Japan it was felt that the most likely opponent was going to be 3 times winners New Zealand. Since the crushing loss to Argentina in Cardiff 4 years ago, the hope was that Joe Schmidt would firstly sign up to lead the Ireland charge and then after he did so it was hoped he could make Ireland hard to beat and finally be in a position to challenge for at the very least a Semi Final spot in Japan.
He has achieved that goal and has also hit some big markers in the 4 years since that big quarter final loss, winning in South Africa in 2016, beating New Zealand twice in late 2016 and again in 2018. He has also masterminded a Grand Slam win in 2018.
These are the markers with which the 2019 World Cup campaign was going to be judged and after a poor 2019 it looked as if the whole positivity surrounding the Ireland camp from 2018 was going to count for very little but Ireland managed to make a 7th quarter final and the hope of making a first semi final will be severely tested by the triple winners New Zealand who were winners in 1987,2011 and 2015.
So far in this campaign, the Irish performances have not been what is required to show they are true contenders but now that they are in another quarter final, all the talk can stop and they can fully focus on a shot at the world champions who they have faced 4 times since the 2015 World Cup winning twice.
With the involvement of Bundee Aki to be decided tomorrow the other 30 players can fully focus on the task at hand with the likes of Chris Farrell on standby to step in should Bundee Aki miss out through suspension.
New Zealand will be well rested having had there last pool game called off due to the typhoon that struck in Japan this weekend.
They will also know that they haven’t had it all their own way in recent times against Ireland and with the possibility of this game being Joe Schmidt’s final game in charge of Ireland after 6 years at the helm that will spur Ireland on to hopefully do what they have so far failed to do in the other 7 World Cup’s since 1987 and that is make a first Semi Final and then who knows what may happen but for now, it’s all eyes on the Quarter Final next Saturday at 11.15am Irish time.