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4 days ago
Irish eyes are smilin'.
Last weekend provided no real surprises for anyone following either of these two European powerhouses. Following a dynamic performance against Italy, Ireland took a huge task in going toe-to-toe with a Papua New Guinean team in Port Moresby in a stadium filled with a crowd collectively louder than a dozen heavy metal concerts within a kilometre square radius of each other. Despite the fact they ended up with a 14-6 defeat to the Kumuls, the Irish can most certainly take a huge amount from that game in preparation for this final Pool match. Even a horrendous completion rate couldn't stop the Irish from taking it to their opposition. For their third match, they face up against Wales. Speaking of results in Papua New Guinea, it's more than fair to remember they took a 50-6 defeat to the Kumuls in the same stadium a week earlier.
Wales have certainly had a disappointing World Cup thus far, scoring just twelve points in their two games compared to conceeding one hundred and twelve. They were never truly in the game against Papua New Guinea, and barely turned up against Fiji. Fans of the Red Dragon will hope that Wales put in a much improved performance. Wales have the longest period of any active country without a World Cup victory, since the Quarter Finals of 2000.
Last meeting: Wales 30, Ireland 4 (2015 European Cup)
Wales claimed the 2015 European Cup with a stunning victory over Ireland. Comparitvely to the modern results, eleven of the starting Welsh players for this game were in that squad, compared to just three for Ireland. Wales needed any result to claim the tournament, following a winless 2014 tournament. The injury ravaged Welsh completed the stunning tournament win, leading 22-0 at half-time to put Ireland out of the game quickly.
The only other international contest between the pair saw Ireland dominate Wales 46-14 in November 2014 at Wrexham. The sides have never met at World Cup level.
Who to watch: Experience is key when it comes to matches like this. When it's a match where a team is not only expected to win but win well, experience to get the job done is still required. Wigan Warriors hooker Michael McIlorum will most certainly provide that. McIlorum managed a defensive effort in his forty-four minutes against Papua New Guinea, he will once again be key as Ireland look to boost themselves for a hopeful victory.
Wales haven't had much to celebrate in their first two matches, but captain Craig Kopczak has still lead from the front. Whilst he, alongside his team-mates made errors and missed tackles, his current season form will show that he still has the capabilities to lead and give his nation the front foot it ever so desperately needs.
The favourite: Ireland. By a lot.
My tip: I want to say that Wales will showcase a massive improvement, and I believe it will. But this is the case where a bad Ireland should still manage a win over a good Welsh side. Let's hope not. I think regardless, Ireland will still be well too strong. Ireland by 28.
1. Elliot Kear 2. Rhys Williams 3. Michael Channing 17. Ben Morris 5. Regan Grace 6. Courtney Davies 23. Josh Ralph 8. Craig Kopczak 14. Steve Parry 16. Ben Evans 13. Morgan Knowles 9. Matty Fozard 10. Phil Joseph 11. Rhodri Lloyd 12. Joe Burke 15. Matthew Barron 18. Andrew Gay
1. Scott Grix 2. Shannon Mcdonell 3. Ed Chamberlain 4. Api Pewhairangi 5. Liam Kay 6. Joe Keyes 7. Liam Finn 8. Anthony Mullally 9. Michael McIlorum 10. Kyle Amor 11. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 12. Will Hope 13. Brad Singleton 14. George King 15. Matty Hadden 16. Joe Philbin 17. Oliver Roberts
Referees: Ben Thaler; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Scott Mikalauskas; Video Referees: Robert Hicks;