Ireland can be lucky this time, says Wood
Ireland have never r eached a Rugby World Cup semifinal but former captain Keith Wood believes they can win the trophy if they beat France in their final pool match.
The Irish have still to play Italy and France the Canadians. But both should reach their high stakes Cardiff showdown on Oct. 11 unbeaten.
Barring huge upsets, the loser of the contest will get a fearsome quarterfinal clash against defending champions New Zealand who are storming to first place in Pool C. The winner would likely get an easier task against Argentina.
However, 2001 World Player of the Year Wood — who bowed out of Test rugby with a 2003 quarterfinal loss to France — said the Irish under coach Joe Schmidt have the quality to make a big impact on the tournament.
New Zealander Schmidt has in just two years turned Ireland from a demoralized unit into the winners of two successive Six Nations titles with notable wins over southern hemisphere giants Australia and South Africa.
“I think this competition is all about the game with France,” said Wood, an ambassador for tournament sponsor Mastercard.
“The Irish are expected to win their first three games and if they win against France or lose to France there will be just a couple of points in it.
“If they win they play Argentina which is an incredibly tough game and if they lose it is the All Blacks, and they are no slouch either.
“However, we know which of those opponents will be the hardest.
‘Yes they can!’
“Can they (the Irish) get to the semis? Yes they can. Can Ireland win the World Cup? Yes they can.” Wood said the Irish look strong but need to stay injury free.
“Maybe we need a bit of luck and I’ve seen lots of teams win World Cups who have had a bit of luck so we can take a bit of that ourselves this time.”
Wood, who was affectionately known in his playing days as the “Raging Potato” because of his shaven- headed rampaging runs, said Schmidt has lifted the pressure off players better than previous Ireland coaches.
“We’ve had steel in the past (at the World Cup) and some things have worked for us and some haven’t,” said Wood, who highlighted Ireland’s campaign in 2003, his finale. “Maybe we could have done more and didn’t and is something that I regret.”
“I like the fact there is a sense of thoroughness to Joe Schmidt.”
Wood, who was part of the British and Irish Lions side that beat world champions South Africa in 1997, said he liked what he had seen of a “very competent” Ireland in their comfortable victories over Canada (50-5) and Romania (44-10).
Ireland’s full-back Rob Kearney, center, runs to score his team’s fifth try during a Pool D match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between Ireland and Romania at Wembley stadium, north London on Sunday, Sept. 27.