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Ireland must show a different string to their bow in tricky opener against Canada

18 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Ireland must show a different string to their bow in tricky opener against Canada

Joe Schmidt's side have all the battling qualities necessary for overcoming Canada, but will want their back line to fire ahead of future tests

For far too long, Ireland have been World Cup hangers on.

Having never made it beyond the quarter-finals of rugby’s showpiece event, expectations are high that this time around the boys in green will bring a bit more to the party.

And understandably so, given that Joe Schmidt’s men – winners of the previous two Six Nations –have been the most formidable side in the Northern Hemisphere in recent years.

Consecutive defeats against Wales and England in their final two warm-up matches can be shrugged off given the experimental and restrained nature of such matches.

Yet for all his talk of peaking for the final pool match against France, Joe Schmidt knows that the time has come to release the handbrake.

The mental and physical rigours of modern rugby are far too intense not to go full throttle once the real stuff starts – a reality reflected in his team selection for their first game against Canada on Saturday.

Barring centre Robbie Henshaw’s absence due to an apparently minor hamstring injury, Ireland are at full strength.

And judging by their previous experience against Canada they will need to be as they take on a side coached by Kiwi Kieran Crowley, a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 1987.

Coincidentally, that was the same year Ireland last met Canada at a World Cup, when they ran out 46-19 victors – a scoreline that has since been proven to be more or less exactly par for the course.

Combined with three World Cup meetings against Wales, the Maple Leafs have lost all four of their World Cup meetings against one of the Home Nations by between 27 and 31 points.

8/1 – Ireland to win by 26-30 pointsundefinedIt was the same story when Canada met another Six Nations side in France at the 2011 tournament – going down 46-19 – as well as when they welcomed Ireland during their summer tour of 2013, when they lost 14-40.

Such a trend is a testament to the battling qualities of a side that have been an ever-present at all seven World Cups to date – who, despite literally competing on a different level to the top tier nations, rarely let their opponents get out of sight. 

That gritty determination is exuded by a formidable pack, that, although missing skipper Tyler Ardron on Saturday, will be captained by Jamie Cudmore playing in his fourth World Cup.

The Clermont Auvergne bruiser will be no stranger to his opposite number in Paul O’Connell on Saturday after the two were sent from the field of play following a scuffle in a Heineken Cup match in 2009.

O’Connell will equal John Hayes’ record number of caps for a forward of 106 when he leads Ireland out at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday – and having scored last time out against England is 4/1 to mark the occasion by scoring a try at any time.

But while there are no doubts about Ireland’s ability to grind out a result, reservations remain about the sharpness of their attack when the opportunity presents itself.

Keith Earls has been entrusted with one of the spots on the wings following his try against Wales at the same stadium last month – and with five tries in the 2011 pool stages is 13/2 to score Ireland’s first try of the 2015 tournament and 6/1 to bag a hat-trick. 

Yet Canada also boast some fliers of their own, a fact that will not be lost on the Irish will both wingers in DTH van der Merwe and Jeff Hassler playing in the Pro12 playing for the Scarlets and Ospreys respectively.

Both are accomplished Sevens players and will relish the chance to launch breakaways in broken play – with Van der Merwe 4/1 and Hassler 9/2 to score at any time.

With so many familiar faces among the opposition, Ireland’s opener could well turn out to be a much tougher workout than expected. 

Ireland v Canada betting

READ: David Wallace: Forget peaking for France, Ireland must go in all guns blazing