Italy stand in Ire­land’s path to se­cure quar­ter-fi­nals berth

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - Rugbyunion sport -

THE dust had barely set­tled on Ire­land’s 62-12 de­mo­li­tion of Rus­sia be­fore De­clan Kid­ney turned his at­ten­tion to next Sun­day’s crit­i­cal World Cup clash with Italy.

Even though the Ir­ish top Pool C, three points clear of sec­ond­placed Aus­tralia, they know de­feat to the Az­zurri in Dunedin could dump them out of the tour­na­ment.

Af­ter their hero­ics against the Wal­la­bies, fail­ing to reach the knock­out stages would be an un­bear­able con­clu­sion to a World Cup that has promised so much.

The in­abil­ity to se­cure the tryscor­ing bonus point against the United States could yet prove de­ci­sive.

Head coach Kid­ney said: “Aus­tralia was the big game ev­ery­one was talk­ing about, but we al­ways knew in the back­ground that beat­ing Italy would be vi­tal for us to get out of the group.

“Be­cause of the points struc­ture we had to pick up max­i­mum points in our first three games in or­der to be guar­an­teed to get out of the group at this stage.

“The fact we’re in a win­ner­takes-all sit­u­a­tion makes it like a cup fi­nal with a big prize to play for in get­ting into the quar­ter-fi­nals.

“We know that we could be go­ing home on the plane the fol­low­ing day too. We’re un­der no il­lu­sions about the task ahead of us.”

The last time Ire­land lost to Italy was in 1997, so de­feat in Dunedin is un­likely no mat­ter how seis­mic the po­ten­tial con­se­quences are.

The quar­ter-fi­nals cer­tainly moved a stepped closer af­ter Rus­sia con­ceded nine tries in a pre­dictably one-sided con­test at Ro­torua In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium.

Keith Earls led the charge with two tries, with Fer­gus Mc­Fad­den, Sean O’Brien, Isaac Boss, An­drew Trim­ble, Rob Kear­ney, Shane Jen­nings and Tony Buck­ley also breach­ing the white­wash.

Man of the match Ro­nan O’Gara kicked a penalty and six con­ver­sions to fin­ish with 15 points, miss­ing just one shot at goal, and made good use of the space given to him by Rus­sia.

It was a com­pre­hen­sive vic­tory over Pool C’s whip­ping boys, but Kid­ney was not en­tirely con­vinced.

“We had hot and cold patches. We started off well in both halves but also prob­a­bly fell off in the mid­dle of both halves,” he said.

“There were plenty of good things but ob­vi­ously plenty to work on as well.

“Some­times we didn’t have the team co­he­sion that we wanted, but it wasn’t down to lack of ef­fort or any­thing like that.”

Ire­land fielded a mix­ture of first and sec­ond string play­ers led by Leo Cullen, who was mak­ing his World Cup de­but.

The bonus point ar­rived shortly be­fore the break, but Rus­sia of­fered spir­ited re­sis­tance at times with Vasily Arte­myev and De­nis Sim­p­like­vich scor­ing sec­ond-half tries. “For the most part we’re pretty happy. Scor­ing nine tries in a World Cup game is a pretty good achieve­ment,” said Cullen.

DE­CLAN KID­NEY: Knows Ire­land’s World Cup fu­ture would go down to Italy re­sult.

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