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Ex-England international identifies RWC game Ireland 'want to lose'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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.

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“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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David 444 days ago

A lot of assumptions here from Barnes, not least that he fancies All Blacks to beat France in the opening game. It's possible, of course, but based on today's state of affairs that would be a big ask. There is still too much time between now and the tournament to start thinking permutations.

mark 445 days ago

Fish food . In the semis the two winners from A and B play the 2 winners from C and D . In other words in the semis it switches . Your comment is incorrect . Ireland and France can face each other in the final .

Fish Food 445 days ago

Stuart Barnes is an idiot writing that "If they must face France, let it be in the final.” As they're both from the same side of the draw, they'll either meet in the quarter finals or the semi final. Only one team from that side of the draw can make it to the final. Apart from that, his musings have merit.

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