Having seen his charges dispatch of Russia 62-12, Ireland coach Declan Kidney has turned his attention to next week’s clash with Italy.
Sunday’s game against Russia always seemed a mere formality, but the men in emerald green did well not to surrender the momentum gained from their win over Australia as they ran in nine tries in Rotorua.
However, despite their shock win over the Wallabies, Ireland’s position in the quarter-finals is not yet assured, with a meeting with Italy standing between them and a place in the play-offs. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that Ireland did not claim a bonus point in their win over the USA.
“Australia was the big game everyone was talking about, but we always knew in the background that beating Italy would be vital for us to get out of the group,” explained Kidney.
“Because of the points structure we had to pick up maximum points in our first three games in order to be guaranteed to get out of the group at this stage.
“The fact we’re in a winner-takes-all situation makes it like a cup final with a big prize to play for in getting into the quarter-finals.
“We know that we could be going home on the plane the following day too. We’re under no illusions about the task ahead of us.”
Despite having brushed Russia aside with ease, Kidney is adamant that the Irish still have areas that require improvement.
“We had hot and cold patches. We started off well in both halves but also probably fell off in the middle of both halves,” he said.
“There were plenty of good things but obviously plenty to work on as well.
“Sometimes we didn’t have the team cohesion that we wanted, but it wasn’t down to lack of effort or anything like that.”
Leo Cullen, who skippered Ireland in the absence of Brian O’Driscoll, commended Russia for their efforts but like Kidney admits that the Irish where not as good as they could have been.
“For the most part we’re pretty happy. Scoring nine tries in a World Cup game is a pretty good achievement,” said Cullen.
“There were patches of the game that weren’t ideal and conditions out there were reasonably tough, the ball was greasy.
“Russia acquitted themselves pretty well and had some good back-rowers and a lot of pace in the back three.
“They made life difficult for us and will get the more games they play at this level. It was an education for us at times.
“We maybe forced things too much at times but we can move from here on satisfied.
“We talked about carrying on the momentum created by beating Australia and we’ve done that. Overall we’re happy.”