When and where is it on?
How can I watch it?
Ireland v South Africa is live on RTÉ and ITV1. Coverage on RTÉ gets under way at 7pm.
How did the first two games go?
Ireland kicked their tournament off with an 82-8 win over Romania in Bordeaux. The 12 tries to one win was an Irish record at the World Cup and the second-biggest Irish winning margin ever. And, crucially, the squad emerged from the first game unscathed. Playing under clear blue skies and at a temperature of 36 degrees, it was in many ways the perfect start.
Then on Saturday last they brought their tournament tally to 20 tries with a 59-16 win over Tonga in Nantes. Andy Farrell’s selection was again thoroughly vindicated as he opted to go with close to his strongest team, including captain Johnny Sexton who overtook Ronan O’Gara’s Irish all-time scoring record of 1,083 points.
Tonga had four former All Blacks in their ranks, but Ireland passed what could’ve been a tricky test and with a much improved lineout performance. Finlay Bealham’s departure for a HIA was the only downside, ahead of the business end of the pool.
Ireland have come into this World Cup as Six Nations champions, winning the Grand Slam after beating Australia and South Africa the previous November. Before that, they won two out of three games during their successful and historic tour to New Zealand.
Andy Farrell’s team are ranked world number one, and heading into this tournament they enjoyed comfortable warm-up wins over Italy, England and Samoa. Ireland have won their last 15 games, since losing to the All Blacks in Eden Park in July 2022. And Josh van der Flier is the reigning World Player of the Year. Surely this Irish team will be the first to get past a World Cup quarter-final – at least – but the draw hasn’t done them any favours.
What’s the World Cup format?
Ireland are in Pool B with Romania, Tonga, South Africa and Scotland, playing those teams in that order week-on-week with two weeks between the final two games. First in the group will face the runner-up in Pool A in the quarterfinals, whereas second will face the winner of the same group which contains France and New Zealand. This means the top four teams in the world are all on one side of the draw, leaving the likes of Australia, England, Wales, Fiji and Argentina to fight it out for a place in the final.
Ireland’s Pool B fixtures are as follows (all times Irish):
Sat Sept 9th: Ireland 82 Romania 8
Sat Sept 16th: Ireland 59 Tonga 16
Sat Sept 23rd: v South Africa, Paris, 8.0
Sat Oct 7th: v Scotland, Paris, 8.0
Sat Oct 14th: Quarter-final 2 (winner Pool B vs runner-up Pool A), Paris, 8.0
Sun Oct 15th: Quarter-final 4 (winner Pool A vs runner-up Pool B), Paris, 8.0
Fri Oct 20th: Semi-final 1 (winner of QF1 vs winner of QF2), Paris, 8.0
Sat Oct 21st: Semi-final 2 (winner of QF4 vs winner of QF4), Paris, 8.0
Sat Oct 28th: Final (winner of SF1 vs winner of SF2) – Paris, 8.0
What to expect from South Africa?
World Cup-winning outhalf Handre Pollard has been called up to the Springboks squad to fill the vacancy created by hooker Malcolm Marx, whose tournament was ended earlier this week due to a knee injury. South Africa have decided that Bongi Mbonambi and Deon Fourie, with flanker Marco van Staden able to slot in, provide enough cover in the hooker position.
In their final warm-up game they had a 35-7 win over the All Blacks in Twickenham, with a fresh forward pack (they made headlines with a 7/1 bench split) powering them to a statement victory.
South Africa started their tournament off with an 18-3 win over Scotland before hammering Romania 76-0 at the weekend, despite making 14 changes.
Their record at the World Cup makes it obvious why they are so feared, the Boks have won three titles out of the seven they’ve competed in and they come into this edition as reigning champions. They have played 45 matches at Rugby World Cups and have won 38 for an 84 per cent winning ratio, only the All Blacks have a better record.
Saturday will be the first ever World Cup match between Ireland and South Africa. However, the two national sides have faced off on 27 occasions in total, going back to 1906. Of those meetings, the Springboks have won 18 matches, there was one draw, while Ireland have won eight games. The most recent of which came last November, a 19-16 win during the autumn internationals.
Andy Farrell has made just one change to Ireland’s starting line-up for next Saturday’s mighty Rugby World Cup Pool B collision against the reigning world champions South Africa in the Stade de France on Saturday night (kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish).
As anticipated Jamison Gibson-Park is restored and Conor Murray reverting to the replacements, where Andy Farrell has retained a conventional 5-3 split despite the Springboks opting for seven forwards among their replacements.
Ryan Baird has been called up to the replacements and along with Iain Henderson could feature off the bench in countering the so-called “Bomb Squad”.
The fit again Dan Sheehan is also restored to the bench for what will be his World Cup debut, while Jack Crowley’s versatility has been preferred to Ross Byrne as back-up to Johnny Sexton.
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made one change from the starting team that beat Scotland 18-3 in their opening match, with Bongi Mbonambi replacing the injured Malcolm Marx at hooker.
Munster’s Jean Kleyn, who played for Ireland at the World Cup in Japan four years ago, is named amongst the replacements. Along with his club mate RG Snyman. Nienaber has opted for a 7-1 split on the bench.
IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Robbie Henshaw.
SOUTH AFRICA: Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Siya Kolisi (Capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Jean Kleyn, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach.
The forecast for Paris on Saturday night is partly cloudy, with a less than 5 per cent chance of rain and temperatures between 16-17 degrees, as well as a wind speed of 5km/h. Ireland prepared for the higher temperatures, spending a week in Portugal for a warm-weather training camp and also playing their final warm-up game against Samoa in Bayonne, where they also had to deal with heavy rain throughout the match.
Who’s on the whistle?
Ben O’Keeffe will be in charge of Ireland’s clash with South Africa. The New Zealander was criticised for failing to establish ground rules in Ireland’s win over Australia in November 2022.
“O’Keeffe needed to be firm,” explained John O’Sullivan. “Unflinching, and consistent from the get-go to establish the ground rules in this facet of the game for both teams; basically, to ping transgressors off the park until everyone understood what was acceptable. He didn’t and so players, as is their want, not so much pushed but ignored boundaries.”
Tickets for Ireland’s matches are being sold via the Rugby World Cup’s official ticketing website and the Tonga game was priced from €75 (Cat 4) to €300 (Cat 1). But not even official resale tickets are now available, they were all sold weeks in advance.