'Huge task ahead of us' - Kidney
Rugby:Ireland coach Declan Kidney insists Pool D of the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be "really tight" after Ireland were drawn with France and Italy at the Tate Modern in London this afternoon. The three heavyweights are familiar Six Nations rivals, and will either the USA or Canada, and one of Georgia, Russia, Romania, Spain and Portugal, alongside them in the group.
Each side will be desperate to finish top and thus avoid favourites New Zealand in the quarter-finals, with Argentina the likely opposition for the winners.
“We’ve been drawn in a group where everybody knows one another," said Kidney today. "It’s going to make things really tight in 2015. We’re obviously playing each other in the Six Nations three times before then. We also have a tour to the Americas in June when we’ll be playing Canada twice and America once. And then we have World Cup history with Russia and Georgia, so there won’t be too many surprises.
“We played France a couple of times in the World Cup and came second by a bit. They’ve always shown themselves to be an extremely good side who peak for that competition. I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to win the World Cup in England. We know we have a huge task ahead of us.”
France were beaten in last autumn’s final by the All Blacks and captain Thierry Dusautoirinsists that result will help fuel their campaign in England.
“For us maybe we are going to have our revenge for the final against New Zealand,” he said. “It’s a European pool, it’s like being in a little Six Nations again. But it’s true that we can be happy to not be in a pool which is really hot.”
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscollreacted highlighted the threat that awaits from the southern hemisphere giants in the knockout stages, but says the trio of Six Nations teams will be convinced they can plot the easier path to the semi-finals by winning the group.
“It could have been worse. You’re never going to lick your lips at a World Cup draw because you’ll always have good quality opposition,” he said. “It’s 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 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. It leaves it quite open because all three are capable of beating one another. It should make for interesting viewing.”
Ireland have a dreadful record against France, winning just one of 13 meetings since 2003, a run that includes two defeats at the World Cup — in 2003 and 2007. It will be the pivotal match in the group and O’Driscoll admits Les Bleus have a psychological edge in the fixture.
“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,” he said. “They play with a lot of confidence against us because of that record. When things are going well maybe they think they’ll be able to see the game through and that’s how things have panned out over the last while.
“But if we play well we can definitely beat them. You need to think you’re capable of beating anyone on your day.”
O’Driscoll will be 36 when the next World Cup begins and accepts his involvement in England in three years time is unlikely.
“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,” he said. “I think my World Cup ship has sailed, but I’ll be there as Ireland’s number one supporter.”
Italy captain Sergio Parissesaid the draw could have been harsher on the Azzurri.
“From the Italian point of view it is a difficult pool, but when you see the pool that has England, Wales and Australia you see this is a good pool for us.”