France 9-24 Ireland

Ireland claimed victory in Pool D and top spot with a hard fought victory over France. A couple of early penalties were missed by France, whilst Sexton was accurate with his kicking until forced off by injury. Ireland created one good break, but were unable to hold on to the final pass and lost Paul O’Connell to injury on the stroke of half time. In the second half, Ireland were able to score a couple of tries and secure the victory.

Ireland played well and shut France down effectively and will need a similar effort next week against a good Argentine side, although it looks as though they will be without some key players in Sexton and O’Connell if the injuries are as bad as they look and O’Brien could be cited for a punch off the ball. France will have to show a great improvement (especially in securing ball at the breakdown) if they are to challenge New Zealand next weekend.

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Ireland 44-10 Romania

Ireland recorded a bonus point victory over a resolute Romanian side in Pool D. Romania defended and tackled well, with Ireland only securing the bonus point in the final quarter when Romania went down to 14 men and they were able to run in a couple of tries to put some gloss on the score, although Romania scored a late try.

Ireland have secured two bonus point victories from their opening games against the two weakest teams in the group, which they would have expected to do. They will surely be confident about beating Italy and setting up a big final game against France, the winners of whom will surely top the group. Romania have played France and Ireland, two games that they would not have been expecting to get anything out of. They now have games against Italy and Canada, which they will surely have targeted to get something from. Whilst they have impressed with their workrate, it is difficult to see them winning either, although they could achieve a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.

Rugby World Cup: Pool D preview

Countries competing in Pool D (IRB ranking in brackets):

Canada (18)
France (7)
Ireland (6)
Italy (14)
Romania (17)

Pool D (on paper at least) appears to have two clear favourites in Ireland who should qualify reasonably comfortably. However, I think that this will be quite a tight group, as Ireland seem to have had difficulties at the World Cup in the past and then there is the favoured cliche of which French side will turn up. Italy will certainly be waiting in the wings waiting to take full advantage of any slip from them and qualify; they played well against Wales in a recent World Cup warm-up, showing strong defence and out-scored the hosts in tries. I expect France V Italy to be the key match for qualification, with the winners joining Ireland in progressing from the group. For Canada and Romania, the game between them will be important and will decide who will finish fourth.

Predicted final table:

1. Ireland
2. France
3. Italy
4. Romania
5. Canada

Ireland 0-0 England

An end of season friendly ahead of European qualifiers next weekend produced very few chances and little excitement. The first half was quite close, with England having the better of the second half. The best chance of the game was probably at the start of the second half when the ball was passed to Rooney, who was in the clear; his heavy first touch rolled harmlessly to the Irish keeper. The

The set piece delivery from Ireland was generally good. The defence for England remains an area of concern, with mistakes looking possible. Wilshere played well in front of the centre backs and seemed to bring some purpose and there were attempts to find a final ball in the attacking third, but the execution was lacking. Sterling looked quite ineffectual and replacing him with Townsend seemed to improve things for England.

Ireland 19-9 England

Ireland beat England quite comfortably to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive, while ending England’s. England only came into the game after Ireland scored their try and Sexton went off. Even though England came into the game more, Ireland were able to keep them out and prevent try-scoring chances until the end, although England’s try was ruled out for a forward pass.

The keys to the Irish victory were their chases from tactical kicks, discipline and winning the breakdown. In contrast, England gave away too many penalties and struggled at the breakdown. This match was between the two strongest teams in Europe, but Ireland (with Sexton on) were much better at controlling the game and deserved their victory.

Ireland 18-11 France

Ireland were able to see out a late French charge following the only try of the game and win their second game of the tournament. All the Irish points came from penalties. The game was very tight and there were few try scoring chances throughout. Both sides were well organised, but there were few signs of invention. Ireland play England next and if England play with pace and width, they could trouble the Irish; the French certainly seemed to in the last 10 minutes. However, England’s defence will need to be good as Ireland controlled plenty of the ball today.