Can Joe’s heroes march on?

Several far more talented sports journalists than I have written many fine words about the Irish rugby team’s performance against France last Sunday. If we were never to win another major rugby game I will never forget what we saw on our TV screens last Sunday.

  Has there ever been a more heroic performance from an Irish team in any sport? If there has been, I cannot remember it.

  I presume that Joe Schmidt has been working on our squad for a long time before the tournament started. The strength of the squad was shown on Sunday last when Ian Madigan, Ian Henderson, Chris Henry and others came into what was a massively intense game – and all fitted in seamlessly.

  I still don’t think we have a team good enough to win the World Cup but at this stage it is knockout and anything can happen.

  We have seen that the All Blacks, France and South Africa have not played well at one stage or another, although South Africa have made a huge recovery after being beaten by Japan in their first game. It would be ironic if they were to go on and win it out.

  Australia look the best team in it so far and we will be meeting them if we can manage to beat Argentina next Sunday. But that’s for another day. It was incredible last Sunday that when Paul O’Connell had to go off we saw Ian Henderson coming on and playing brilliantly. It was like the baton was being passed on from the older generation to the new generation and Henderson did not let us down. Neither did Ian Madigan. In fairness to the guy, he has been living in Johnny Sexton’s shadow for years. He got his chance on Sunday and he took it with both hands. It was incredible stuff. In fact Ireland totally dominated the second half and could have won by even more.

  Now we go on to face Argentina on Sunday and they will offer a very different challenge than France. It will be another big week for Joe Schmidt. The Irish players and management knew well going into the French game, that if they were not all ready for the battle that we would not have won. This week Ireland will be expected to beat Argentina and complacency will be an enemy, like it was in the run-up to the game against Italy.

  Irish rugby fans will not need to be reminded that we don’t have a good record against Argentina in World Cups and make no mistake, they (Argentina) will be looking on this game as one that they can win. It will be a very, very tough game. But I like Joe Schmidt and the way that he has got his team ready for this World Cup. Injuries could cost us in the long term but we have a great chance of getting to a World Cup semi-final for the first time ever and I think that we can do it.

  I presume that Australia and South Africa will beat Scotland and Wales respectively, but the match between New Zealand and France might not be straightforward for the All Blacks. Even though they were well beaten by Ireland, France are the one team that the All Blacks hate playing against. It could go to the wire.

  It has been a magnificent World Cup so far. It has been very well organised, with full houses at every game. Even the games between the so-called lesser nations have been very entertaining. The clash last Saturday between Samoa and Scotland was one of the most exciting games of rugby that I have ever seen. It was brilliant to watch.

  Just a word too about the TV3 coverage of the World Cup. Matt Cooper is a good host and his guests, particularly Keith Wood, have been on the money too, but the length of the ad breaks is a joke. Last Sunday during the Ireland v France game the ad break at half-time was 14 minutes and the panel spoke about the game for exactly one minute and forty-two seconds. Surely there has to be a limit on the amount of ads that you can have in any break? I know that TV3 have to make hay while the sun shines, but there has to be a limit!