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'It does feel unfair': Irish rugby pundits on whether they deserve the choker tag

By Kim Ekin
A tearful Hugo Keenan of Ireland looks on after the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Ireland and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

After a tough 28-24 quarter-final exit at the hands of New Zealand, Ireland has been left to swallow a bitter pill after being the world’s number one side riding a 17-game winning streak.


The second straight quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks came after a historic period of success for Ireland including a series win down in New Zealand.

Former Irish international Shane Horgan was blunt about the way Ireland would be viewed overseas as chokers despite having such a sustained period of winning and achievements.

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He viewed Ireland as one of the ‘most progressive’ teams in world rugby that has made historic achievements and don’t deserve the tag.

“I think you have to assess it in a sophisticated way,” Horgan said on Virgin Media Sport.

“But brass tacks, a lot of what you said is correct, and to be honest with you outside of Ireland that’s how it’s going to be assessed.

“Unfortunately that’s the way it’s going to be until Ireland get to a semi-final, because what does number one in the world count for now.


“That’s what everyone will be saying. Do New Zealand think Ireland are number one in the world now? Did it matter in the last two years?

“Now it did matter, I think that is a significant achievement, I’m not undervaluing anything Ireland have done in the last two years, I think it has been brilliant.

“I’ve loved the way they’ve played, they are if not one of the most progressive teams.

“To win a tour in New Zealand, which is scarcely believable from when I started rugby. Demolished the teams in the Autumn internationals, won a Grand Slam, its an incredible achievement.

“Played brilliantly in the pool stages of the World Cup and we are proud of the way they played.

“But in a World Cup it is a binary game, isn’t it? You either win or you lose. Unfortunately like every other Irish team before, we got bounced out at the quarter-finals.”


Australian coach Matt Williams agreed with Horgan’s sentiment that the result doesn’t undermine the body of work that the team has completed.

He believed the series win over the All Blacks meant more than the world rankings which were flawed.

“I don’t think it undermines the last couple of years,” Williams said.

“I don’t rate the world rankings because they are not even, because not everyone is playing each other.

“Ireland world number one, ok that’s great. We know they are a great team. I put the win in New Zealand more highly than ranked number one.

“Because as Shane said, it’s absolutely historic. It’s only been done three times in history.

“We shouldn’t take anything away from this team. I think that’s unfair. And remember, New Zealand are going to make the final.

“They’re not necessarily going to win it, but they are going to make a final.

“That is our game. Whoever is world champion gets the William Webb Ellis trophy for four years. And they are the best.

“South Africa have still got it and it’s up to someone to take it off them.”

Horgan believed that the result was ‘unfair’ for Ireland have been pitted against a top four team at the quarter-final stage.

The quality of the side they had deserved a shot in the semi-finals or final he argued.

“It does feel unfair that this team isn’t getting their just desserts,” Horgan said.

“And maybe their just desserts wasn’t winning a World Cup, maybe it wasn’t. But it was getting out of a quarter-final. And now Argentina have.

“Not whining about the World Cup draw, ok this is going to happen, there have been other years where there has been groups that have been stacked.

“It feels more outrageous than ever before this year, but it is what it is. What I’m saying is they are a better team than quarter-finalist at a World Cup.

“They deserve to have a shot in a semi-final or a final. They just did. Because of the draw they are not going to have the four best teams in the semi-finals.”


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Toddy 272 days ago

Everyone was going on how well coached the Irish are, and they are right. But I do feel they made a mistake by not resting some of the starting team against Scotland especially with such a short turnaround.

Liam 272 days ago

It undermined the AB teams that got knocked out for 20 years. And nz rugby fans were in denial just like these guys at the start of that run. But by the last couple people were far more realistic. You would think after 8 failures the irish pundits would be realistic already but no

Nickers 272 days ago

The All Blacks finally overcame their World Cup hoodoo when they admitted they were chokers.

Irish players said all through the week that they were preparing for it like it was any other game. Except it’s not. Ireland’s whole lead up ignored the fact they had a World Cup to play.

As they found out once you’re chasing the game with everything on the line, cracks start to appear. Lobbing passes they would never normally throw, refusing to listen to the referee at scrum time, turning down easy 3 points. All things you would do when you have prepared like you will get another chance next week.

Ireland’s players had also run up significantly more game time than NZs. On average their loose forwards and props had played close to two whole games more than NZs since the warm up games began. No acknowledgement whatsoever that humans accumulate fatigue. Ireland’s pack were half a second off the pace and it showed compared to their normal standards. It allowed NZ the 13 point head start they needed to compete with the Irish team.

If Irish Rugby don’t admit they got this whole thing wrong they will repeat this nightmare forever. The SH teams will keep turning up fresher, mentally prepared for knock out rugby, and have more in the tank when it really matters.

CRZ38L 272 days ago

Sorry Matt Williams, you need to win to stay alive in the finals. You knew that and the players knew that, but the ABs were simply better on the day.

Poe 272 days ago

Out smarted isnt choking. France chocked last night taking the 3

Richard 272 days ago

Ireland are a great rugby side ... but on the day they were beaten by the better side ... you don't 'deserve' anything in knockout rugby ... you win or you lose!

Cameron 272 days ago

Ireland didn’t choke, not even close. In fact, I was impressed by how Ireland closed the lead to just one point after going 13 points down early on. Ireland were never bolt on winners, I always thought this game could go either way and that’s exactly how it played out. It was a tremendous game and I was impressed by both sides. It was worthy of being the final, it was that good. Anyone who says Ireland choked doesn’t value the All Blacks the way they should be valued because they are a bloody good team.

strachan 273 days ago

They DESERVED nothing man. See this BS entitled superior attitude. You earn your way to play semis and finals. Not because you ranked no 1. Ranking means piss. You deserve fuc all

Pecos 273 days ago

If it was the ABs who went in as heavy favourites ranked number 1 & chasing a world record 18th consecutive win, to beat a struggling Ireland BUT lost despite playing against only 14 men for a quarter of the game, we’d definitely be labeled chokers. And rightly so. So yes Ireland - YOU CHOKED, CHOKED, CHOKEEEEEEDDDDDD!!! Chokers!

Red and White Dynamight 273 days ago

Ireland choked. Not even the craic can save them. And the figure of 8 ? well, if thats where they feel most comfortable, stay there.

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