RWC 19: Ireland’s path to the semi-finals as daunting as ever

New Zealand or South Africa our likely quarter-final opponents in Japan

Ireland may have received a favourable pool draw in the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday morning, but there the chances of reaching a first ever semi-final remain as tough as ever.

If Ireland win Pool A, where they have been drawn alongside Scotland, Japan and two qualifiers as yet to be confirmed, they will face the runners-up in Pool B. That is likely to be South Africa, while if Ireland finished second, Schmidt’s side would have the unenviable task of taking on the All Blacks, who have won the last two World Cups.

Ireland have never faced the Springboks in a World Cup, while they only time they met the All Blacks was in the 1995 tournament in South Africa, a match memorable for Gary Halpin's post try salute and the unstoppable force of nature, All Black wing, the late Jonah Lomu. Ireland lost the try count 5-3, Denis McBride and David Corkery also crossing the New Zealand line.

Should the Irish team manage something that has previously eluded them in Rugby World Cups and qualify for a place in the semi-finals, then their likely opponents are the Michael Cheika coached Australia, provided they win their pool that includes Wales and then overcome Ireland's bête noir in World Cups, Argentina, if they were to finish runners up to England.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer