Kidney admits avoiding All Blacks in quarter-finals a huge carrot
By common consent, the 2015 World Cup was too far away to make anything resembling concrete forecasts but, for what it was worth, all bar Australia, England and Wales were singularly grateful to have avoided what Philippe Saint-Andre called “le pool de mort”.
In truth, the rest of the draw lacked a little lustre, not least as Ireland, France and Italy will be facing each other three times apiece in the three intervening Six Nations campaigns. Given Ireland will be bumping into the French at a World Cup for the fourth time, and played Italy in New Zealand last year, what little novelty value there will be will most likely come from, say, Romania and Canada.
“Whenever you are in a Pool where the teams know each other well it just means space will be really tight,” was Declan Kidney’s first reaction. “France’s World Cup pedigree is well known,” he added in reference to the three-time runners-up, who may never have won the Cup but in trademark fashion, have generally illuminated each competition with one stellar performance.
“I thought we played really well against Italy in the last World Cup to get out of the pool. And I don’t think Italy will be upset at being in a pool with us. But I’m happy that we were ranked in the top eight. That paid a bit of dividend today. Better to be where we are. That England/Australia Pool is spicy enough, isn’t it?”
Kidney readily acknowledged Ireland’s record against France in the last decade is far from encouraging.
“But they’re that good, and there was never going to be an easy one, was there? South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, there wasn’t exactly rich pickings between any of them.
“There’s times we haven’t got to the quarter-final. That’s why I say we shouldn’t go beyond ourselves. One step will be to get out of the pool, and I think if we lose sight of that in the World Cup, that’s where we can slip up. And that’s where the order of the matches is quite important.”
But in acknowledging that the Pool D winners might potentially avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals was “a huge carrot for them (France)”, Kidney also admitted that should apply to Ireland as well. “Absolutely. The carrot to win it is huge because of the quarter-final draw. Absolutely.”
In particular, he noted that Ireland have struggled when running into France at World Cup time when the latter have had a few months preparation. Although a tad reluctant to look three years down the line, Saint-Andre admitted he would be looking forward to that aspect of the tournament.
“They (Ireland and Italy) will know our level and our game plan and the same for us. We will have three months before the World Cup which can be a big boost for us. We want to come to this competition with big confidence.”
Reminded of their record against Ireland, he smiled and said: “But they drew with us in Paris last season. The thing for us is that we had a very good November. We improve more and more.
“In one day each team can beat anyone else. Each pool will be tough. Also it is my understanding that the runners-up in our group may play New Zealand in the quarter-finals so it shows that it’s better to finish top of the group.”
Sergio Parisse observed: “We play every year in the Six Nations. From the Italian point of view it is a difficult pool, but when you see England, Wales and Australia it could be worse.”
Number one fan
Richie McCaw was not sure whether he would be around in three years time, but Brian O’Driscoll was adamant he wouldn’t be adding to his four World Cups and Irish record of appearances in finals (17), though he did promise that he would be Ireland’s number one fan.
“It could have been a hell of a lot worse. There’s a flip side to it too. If you drew New Zealand in ours and France in Group C you’re potentially looking at France in the quarter-finals as opposed to playing New Zealand in a quarter-final by coming second. So it’s double-edged but we can beat all the teams in our pool and a few of them could beat us so, like Dec said, if you go and speak to the French and Italians they’ll be quietly happy they drew us too,” he said.
Targeting a return “sometime in the new year” O’Driscoll added: “At the moment I couldn’t put a week on it. I’ll see the specialist tomorrow and I’ll know a bit more then, hopefully.”