IT WAS AN “OKAY draw” in the words of Brian O’Driscoll, mulling over a fate which will see Ireland face France and Italy in a mini Six Nations pool at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
With a probable quarter-final against New Zealand awaiting the Pool D runners-up, and in light of Ireland’s recent record against France, O’Driscoll’s circumspection was understandable.
If Ireland are to defy a record which has seen them win just one of 13 Tests against Les Bleus since 2003, a sequence which includes defeats at both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, their captain and leader seemed quite sure that they will have to do it without him.
“It could have been worse,” said O’Driscoll. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because when you avoid New Zealand, South Africa or Australia, inevitably when you get to the knockout stages you’re likely to face one of them sooner rather than later.
It’s an okay draw but I’d imagine France and Italy are quietly happy they’ve drawn us. They’ll think they can beat us.
O’Driscoll, who will be a few months shy of his 37th birthday when the World Cup gets underway in September 2015, burst onto the international scene with a famous Parisian hat-trick in 2000, giving Ireland their first win in the French capital since 1972.
It was a stand-out moment in an outstanding career, and while he may yet add more happy memories against France before hanging up his boots, it’s unlikely that they’ll come at what would be his fifth World Cup.
“Early in my career we managed to get a few victories against France and then all of a sudden they became a very difficult team for us to beat.
They play with a lot of confidence against us because of that record.
But if we play well we can definitely beat them.
He added: “I’ll be there in some capacity, but as a player I doubt that very much. It’s far too far away to be contemplating playing.
“I think my World Cup ship has sailed, but I’ll be there as Ireland’s number one supporter.”
– Additional reporting by AFP