Irish rugby is ready for its biggest season

In less than 12 months, Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign will be up and running.

Friday marked exactly one year until Andy Farrell’s side opened their account against Romania at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. The goal is for it to run until October 28 at the Stade de France final.

Tonga, South Africa and Scotland will follow through September through October, and if those matches go according to plan, then France or New Zealand await in their glass ceiling match, the quarter-finals, the final point of the previous Irish World Cup. Marathon races.

While we cannot point to the success of the World Cup, we can point to the consistency of the World Cup. Of the previous nine editions, Ireland participated in seven quarter-final matches. It’s not a consistency we want to celebrate though.

The quarter-finals were par for the course in 1987, 1991 and 1995, but after Ireland returned to prominence in 2003, they marched with the Triple Crowns in the mid-2000s, and ran with the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009, which was the last – Eight standard no longer cut it.

After being settled in Japan in 2019, Andy Farrell picked the Irish team and patched them together, to the point where they became – at least in the rankings – the best in the world. We’ve been down this road before.

With the URC Championship, Champions Cup and international season remaining, the next 12 months are expected to be the most important in Irish rugby history.

One year after the previous World Cup, the Irish rugby scene was much the same. The Six Nations Grand Slam was followed by a big Test Series win in Australia, while Leinster’s Pro14 and Champions Cup double ensured Ireland’s dominance of both the club and the international scene. Within a few months Joe Schmidt’s team ousted New Zealand, before sweeping the World Rugby Awards. Then it happened in 2019.

The cautionary tale of “peak too soon” followed all of Ireland’s big victories under Andy Farrell. And while Leinster’s lack of success ensures there isn’t the same gap in Irish rugby as it did in 2018, the start of the new BTK United Rugby season next week brings a familiar feeling with it.

How do we avoid the same mistakes again?

Ireland suffered a heavy defeat against New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the World Cup 2019

The first step was to embrace the goal. It was a pleasant surprise to hear about it in October last year Johnny Sexton And Andy Farrell speaks frankly that the World Cup was already a reference point in the camp, after years of focusing on every single match.

By making such a general point about their long-term goal, the Irish administration has shed a bright light on the goal. They threw resources at him. Expand this summer’s tour of New Zealand to include matches against Maori All Blacks, create the fledgling Ireland Tour to South Africa, transfer Andrew Porter back via scrum to loose, as well as extend head coach Andy Farrell’s contract.

With the URC Championship, Champions Cup and international season remaining, the next 12 months are expected to be the most important in Irish rugby history.

During that season, there is a lot of rugby to be played. On Test level, Farrell has eight matches, plus some extra warm-up matches next summer to improve his squad ahead of the World Cup. And despite their position at the top of the rankings, they have plenty of areas to work on.

Porter is still smoothing out the wrinkles of his head-to-head-loose transformation, which has seen Ireland and Leinster face trouble at times over the past 12 months.

Some players need to find shape, but for others, the next year is all about keeping shape. In the past 12 months, Josh van der Flier has gone from being on the sidelines of Ireland’s squad to being the best open side player in the game.

Ireland’s first defeat at Test against New Zealand last summer shows once again that they are just one injury to Sexton away from stuttering, and while Joey Carbery produced in spots for both Munster and Ireland last season, the outside half is in desperate need of a strong, the season settled in red and green. .

Of all the variables that can occur in a World Cup year, injury is the largest. At this week’s launch of the URC season in Slough, three of the four Irish actors spoke about their return from off-season surgery. Andrew Conway had a knee problem, Jack Carty had surgery on his wrist, while Ian Henderson used the summer to have another operation on his thumb.

Connacht Captain Jack Carty hopes to stay in demo competition this season

For all three, the actions were related to matters they had been doing for some time. And for all three, their outlook on returning was the same; They will not be in a hurry to return. Henderson has even suggested he could theoretically be able to play in the next two weeks, but after a year of hampering him with a number of injuries, he’s thinking long-term.

Some players need to find shape, but for others, the next year is all about keeping shape. In the past 12 months, Josh van der Flier has gone from being on the sidelines of the Irish side to being the best open side player in the game, winning the European Player of the Year award and establishing himself as one of the top players in the world. year.

How does it stay at this level, let alone expand its ceiling?

“I think setting long-term goals is a good thing,” Van der Vlier told RTÉ Sport At the launch of the BKT United Rugby Championship this week.

“Having something in the back of your mind, for me it can be harder to start the big games, earlier in the season, but there is a drive to stay ahead of people, my competition for places. Then take the confidence from how last year, and try to bring that into the season To move to a new level.

“Also, I try to be careful not to… I’ve been fortunate enough in the last year to get some awards, but I want to try not to overthink or think about yourself more, just try to stick with what I’ve worked on, and try to improve on different things.

“I’m very hard on myself in many ways. Even when things are going well, I think I could have done it a lot better, or my luck wasn’t good enough, or I don’t contribute to the game in one. Having that attitude. And trying to keep that up, I hope that keeps me from feeling complacent.”

The Stormers beat the Bulls in the URC Final for South Africa last season

With South Africa as one of Ireland’s contenders at the World Cup, the prominence of their four teams in the URC is a plus for Ireland’s preparations, as they compete more regularly against some of the players they are likely to face in France next year. .

And while many Springbok stars play rugby in England, France and Japan, there are plenty of Boks related to Sharks and Stormers in particular when they return from their international window in the winter.

The Boks come to Dublin in November, and the unique physical challenge they present is a much-needed test of how Ireland can stand up to the largest and most drained groups. Likewise, the Six Nations meeting with France in February is a huge testing ground. This incarnation of Les Bleus has won three out of three against Ireland in recent seasons, and not only are Fabian Galthea’s side hosting the World Cup, they are also a potential quarter-final opponent.

All the pieces matter in a World Cup year, and the next 12 months will tell us whether the Irish administration can put those pieces together.

Follow the 2022/23 BTK United Rugby Championship via RTÉ Radio, Television, RTÉ.ie/Sports and the RTÉ News app.

Watch live coverage of Cardiff vs. Monster (September 16), Zepri Parma vs. Leinster (September 17), Stormers vs. Connacht (September 24), Dragons vs. Monster (September 25) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.