Ex-England international identifies RWC game Ireland 'want to lose'
Former England out-half Stuart Barnes has made an incredible claim about Grand Slam champions Ireland and their upcoming Rugby World Cup campaign which has them pitted against defending champions South Africa in the pool stages. The Irish are due to take on the Springboks in Paris on September 23 and Barnes has suggested it could be best for Andy Farrell’s team to lose that match if the tournament opens 15 days earlier with the All Blacks defeating host nation France.
Writing in his latest The Times column, Barnes argued that it would be best for Ireland to take on the All Blacks in the quarter-finals rather than the French as he believes it would be an easier World Cup tie for them to negotiate.
If France win their tournament opening match, there would be no such ‘let’s lose’ dilemma for Ireland who are going into the World Cup looking to win all four pool games and qualify on top of Pool B. However, Barnes intriguingly suggested they would be better off losing to the Springboks if the French are beaten in Pool A on opening night.
“The hosts, France, and the All Blacks are the sharks in pool A,” he began. “The defending champions, the Springboks, and the world’s No 1 side, Ireland, loom large in pool B, with the additional presence of Scotland making this group all the more red-toothed. The next world champions will come from one of those two pools.
“France are likely to make a statement on the opening night. Then again, if any side can catch them cold with their own fluid attacking game, it is New Zealand. The Kiwis are inconsistent but they can be mercurial.
“Were New Zealand to win, I wonder whether Andy Farrell would consider – how shall we phrase it – throwing considerably less than the kitchen sink at their mega match with South Africa 15 days later? France would be formidable opponents come a quarter-final; the round that reads like a curse to Irish rugby fans.
“If Ireland lose to the defending champions (as the Springboks did in the pool stage to New Zealand in Japan four years ago), they would then – assuming the All Blacks have beaten France – be set up for a clash against New Zealand on neutral territory. If France win on the opening night, then Ireland would need to beat the Springboks and top the group to avoid the host nation.
“In recent years, Ireland have scared the bejesus out of the men in black more than any other nation, with five wins from their past eight clashes (including that psychological series win in New Zealand) since their bogey-breaking victory in Chicago in 2016. To win the World Cup, a team have to win the final, not every game.
“There is no need to be macho and accept facing France in a frenzied Parisian knockout game if the evidence indicates that the better route to lifting the trophy is via a last-eight meeting with New Zealand, a side capable of great rugby but who have been horribly twitchy in the Ian Foster era. Let South Africa win the pool and slog it out at the quarter-final stage.
“All this rather rudely discounts Scotland but Ireland are not heading to France to just take part. Gregor Townsend’s team are dangerous but if Farrell’s men are serious contenders (they are) then the odd risk is worth taking.
“It goes against the sporting grain to want to lose a game but it wasn’t Ireland who came up with a pool system, potentially pitting them against the host nation.
“If France pull off an opening-night victory, everything would become simple for Johnny Sexton’s side. Beat the Springboks and avoid the might of France. Let the Springboks do the dirty work and try to oust them. Whichever way you look at it, New Zealand are the Irish’s quarter-finalists of choice. If they must face France, let it be in the final.”
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What a great read. Players mature at different stages and words that may inspire some are far too cutting for others. Good coaches are so important to the career of young players. The ability to get into a player's head is a gift. But in the wrong hands this can be a disaster. There is so much emotional stuff going on with young players that it takes a really good coach to bring the best from them and inspire them to be the best they can be playing rugby and importantly the best person they can be as a person.Go to comments
Interesting read Nick, thanks. Is it a reality check for incomings and outgoings for the English clubs over money? a market correction? This is always a strange thing when it comes to what is still fundamentally recreation, a leisure pursuit. You could have the two divisions but the 2nd division will lose interest for the top flight of players. Maybe a random draw to create two pools that would lead to a play-off system? Have not thought it through but throwing it out there.Go to comments