Rugby World Cup 2011: Quarter Final Preview: Ireland vs. Wales
Quarter Final 1: Ireland versus Wales at Wellington. Saturday October 8th, kickoff 6pm.
Two of the form teams of the tournament will square off in the first playoff match of Rugby World Cup 2011.
There is everything at stake as the winner here will have a very real chance of getting all the way to the final with a favourable semi-final matchup against England/France.
Pool C winners Ireland started their campaign modestly with a narrow win over USA but then turned the tournament on its head with an upset win over Australia.
They closed out the pool in style with comfortable wins over Russia and Italy.
After a poor World Cup preparation, few expected Ireland to be in such good shape heading into the knockout phases but they appear comfortable with their game plan and have had a very organised look about them.
This is the probably the last World Cup chance for many veterans in the Ireland side, including captain Brian O'Driscoll, so expect a strong showing from the men in green.
They have named a side full of experience but one to watch is young gun Sean O'Brien on the side of the scrum.
Standing in their way is Wales, the Pool D runners-up, who have arguably been even more impressive.
They were unlucky to lose to South Africa in their opening match of the tournament, losing by just one point, but showed signs of their potential.
They went on to grind out a crucial win over Samoa before destroying both Namibia and Fiji.
It is possible that this World Cup has come a couple of years too soon for this very young Welsh side that is full of potential. However they are right in the mix and Warren Gatland appears to have his troops well drilled and, most importantly, peaking at the right time.
Several exciting new names have been introduced to the rugby world at this tournament including Sam Warburton, Rhys Priestland and George North. This is mixed nicely with the more established stars Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and James Hook—who has been squeezed onto the bench for this weekend.
These are exciting times for Welsh rugby.
It will be a cracking game to start the World Cup playoffs matches. Wales should have enough firepower to break the Irish defence, whereas Ireland may lack ideas when trying to break down Wales who were also impressive on defence in a tough pool. But be wary of Ireland's experience.
Prediction: 22-15 to Wales
Ireland: 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best, 3. Mike Ross, 4. Donncha O'Callaghan, 5. Paul O'Connell, 6. Stephen Ferris, 7. Sean O'Brien, 8. Jamie Heaslip, 9. Conor Murray, 10. Ronan O'Gara, 11. Keith Earls, 12. Gordon D'Arcy, 13. Brian O'Driscoll (c), 14. Tommy Bowe, 15. Rob Kearney. Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Tom Court, 18. Donnacha Ryan, 19. Denis Leamy, 20. Eoin Reddan, 21. Jonathan Sexton, 22. Andrew Trimble.
Wales: 1. Gethin Jenkins, 2. Huw Bennett, 3. Adam Jones, 4. Luke Charteris, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Danny Lydiate, 7. Sam Warburton (c), 8. Toby Faletau, 9. Mike Phillips, 10. Rhys Priestland, 11. Shane Williams, 12. Jamie Roberts, 13. Jonathan Davies, 14. George North, 15. Leigh Halfpenny. Replacements: 16. Lloyd Burns, 17. Paul James, 18. Bradley Davies, 19. Ryan Jones, 20. Lloyd Williams, 21. James Hook, 22. Scott Williams.
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