At the Stade de France, there was not going to be a nail-biting climax like there was the last time.
Two weeks ago, the rugby world was captivated right up until the very end of a heavyweight World Cup confrontation between Ireland and South Africa that lit up the tournament. Ireland came out on top and defeated the holders of the championship.
On Saturday, however, the team ranked number one in the world decided against giving their supporters yet another nail-biting conclusion. Instead, they eliminated Scotland from the competition, bringing another night of Irish delight to Paris.
Ireland lost little time in destroying the hopes and ambitions of the Scottish people. Garry Ringrose broke through the Scotland defense just as the first rendition of the Fields of Athenry was being pounded out of the lungs of Irish players. This launched a move that concluded with the now-familiar sight of James Lowe diving over in the corner to score the try. There was hardly more than a minute left on the clock.
Andy Farrell raised his fist into the air as he watched the game from a vantage point high up in the stadium. It was exactly the beginning he had been looking for.
The response from Scotland was prompt and full of energy, but in the end it was insufficient. They made significant inroads into Irish territory throughout the first twenty minutes of the match, but came away with nothing to show for their efforts. To make matters worse, Blair Kinghorn and captain Jamie Ritchie both had to leave the match due to injuries, which severely diminished their chances of winning.
In striking contrast, Ireland came across as astonishingly clinical. They constructed opportunities and then took advantage of them, deftly putting together yet another reel that demonstrated their capacity to dominate competitors.
Hugo Keenan scored twice, while Iain Henderson scored once, to leave Irish supporters hoping for a meeting with the All Blacks. Meanwhile, Scotland was eliminated from the pool stage for the third time in the last four competitions, as the green shirts skipped joyfully down the tunnel at halftime.
Ireland undoubtedly benefited from taking a week off after their intensely physical match against the Springboks so that they could focus on recovering from their injuries. They were quick, they were fresh, and they found the holes in the Scottish defense with a startling lack of difficulty. Gregor Townsend mentioned in his post-match comments that it was the best performance he had ever witnessed from Ireland. Although it is difficult to achieve, you can understand why he set such a high standard.
According to former Ireland flanker Chris Henry, who was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, it seemed like Andy Farrell’s side were playing with two or three additional men on the pitch at various points during the game.
The truth is that they were simply much better than everyone else in every aspect as they put the finishing touches on an incredible body of pool stage work. Some of the main numbers that they performed are as follows:
19 points from their first four games, which is their greatest performance ever in the pool stages.
They scored a total of 26 tries in those matches, which is more than they had done in any other competition.
190 points scored, which is a significant improvement over their previous pool best of 141 points in 2003.
It is important to go through some of the more comprehensive statistics once more. The current streak stands at 17 wins in a row, nine wins in a row versus Scotland, and 29 wins overall in 31 tests.
No matter where you look, you can see that this Ireland side is putting up some impressive numbers.
At the conclusion of it all, as Zombie once again reverberated eerily around the Stade de France, the players for Scotland appeared exhausted. For them, it was like going back in time to Yokohama.
Ireland, on the other hand, is about to enter the busiest week that this group has had while Farrell has been in charge. They were blown out by a dominant New Zealand team four years ago, a loss that marked the end of the Joe Schmidt era and exposed the gap that exists between Ireland and the top teams in international rugby. This loss was the catalyst for the departure of Joe Schmidt.
This gulf does not exist any longer. The Irish now have the psychological advantage after beating the All Blacks in a Test series last year and also beating them when they played each other in Dublin in November of 2021. This gives the Irish a psychological lead over the All Blacks.
However, the All Blacks are the most recent team to have triumphed over Ireland, doing so in the first Test played during the previous summer. Ireland has been unbeatable since then, but New Zealand has been on a tear lately, scoring 25 tries in their last two games in Pool A after taking some damage from France in the tournament’s first game.
They seem to be reaching their peak at the appropriate time. When you combine it with the fact that they want to avenge a series loss that occurred on their own turf, they become a terrifying prospect for any opponent. No matter how you look at it, it seems like it may be another offering at the box office that takes place beneath the bright lights in Paris.
“(The All Blacks) have already said it’s one that they want and when they’re hurting and they want to put it right, that’s the biggest challenge in rugby, to try and beat them when they’re in that frame of mind,” said Johnny Sexton, the captain of Ireland.
“Two teams, each for their own unique set of reasons, will be put under pressure. It will come down to who can handle the pressure the best and who is able to perform at their best on the most important day.”
Now, Farrell is about to begin the most important week of his reign. The opportunity to do what his predecessor was unable to do and defeat the All Blacks on the most important platform in rugby is presented on Saturday in the quarterfinal match.
It is an enormous obstacle, but there is more than enough evidence from the past few years to suggest that Ireland can succeed where they have so frequently failed. This is despite the fact that it is an enormous barrier.
“New Zealand are a fantastic side,” said Farrell, who is trying to become the first coach to take Ireland to the World Cup semi-finals. Farrell’s goal is to become the first coach to lead Ireland to the World Cup semi-finals.
“But for little old Ireland to be talked about in the same bracket shows how far we have come as a rugby nation,” he said. “For little old Ireland to be talked about in the same bracket.”
“Our respect for them is through the roof at the moment, and their form is among the best in the business.”
“They will be relishing this fixture to try and put a few things right.”