Monday 23 October 2017

Irish group at a glance

IRELAND'S KEY MEN

Niall Annett

Hooker (20)

Belfast Harlequins/Ulster

When Rhys Ruddock was whisked off to join the seniors during last year's tournament, it was Annett who assumed the captaincy and he retained the armband this season. An accurate line-out thrower and a nuisance in the loose, his experience will be key.

Michael Kearney

Second-row (20)

Clontarf/Leinster

Gained a small amount of fame after getting his head stood on in the Six Nations game against Italy, Kearney's physical size will be crucial. At 6' 6" and 16 stone, the former Youths international will need to front up if Ireland are to match the English power.

Jordi Murphy

Flanker (19)

Blackrock/Leinster

Another veteran of last year's competition, the former Blackrock College star had limited opportunities behind Dominic Ryan and Ruddock, but can star this time around. Has captained the team in Annett's absence and his nous and tackling ability will be crucial.

Luke Marshall

Centre (20)

Ballymena/Ulster

The Ulster centre is a risk taker and his ability with ball in hand should scare opponents. Marshall (right) missed much of the Six Nations as he was called up for Ulster, for whom he made his debut against Munster. Could make the difference with his ability to unlock defences as Ireland look to unload their formidable backline.

Craig Gilroy

Winger/full-back (20) Dungannon/Ulster

a total of 14 appearances and eight tries for Ulster mean Gilroy will be a marked man in this tournament. A physical ball carrier in the style of Tommy Bowe, the Dungannon man has the strength to dominate opponents at this level and can do serious damage.

Andrew Conway

Winger/full-back (19) Blackrock/Leinster

The rapier to Gilroy's blunt edge, the former Blackrock starlet has long been earmarked for success. A silky runner with pace to burn, he starred in last year's Grand Slam and was fast-tracked by Michael Cheika into the Leinster first team. Injury limited his impact this season and he'll be keen to impress.

THE OPPOSITION

England

Grand Slam champions, they destroyed an understrength Ireland 46-15 at Dubarry Park and generally arrive at the World Cup in better shape than they were in February and regularly reach the final. A big pack will look to dominate up front, while Saracens' Aviva Premiership final hero Owen Farrell will look to dictate proceedings behind the scrum.

Scotland

Whipping boys at the Six Nations, Ireland beat the Scots 15-0 in Inverness and when they met in last year's tournament in Argentina in the play-off for ninth, the Irish had no problems. Shouldn't cause many problems in the Pool.

South Africa

The Baby Boks come into the tournament on the back of a successful tour of Argentina and they finished third in last year's tournament. They have a trio of players -- Paul Jordaan, Tshotsho Mbovane and Craig Barry -- who have played for the senior Sevens side, while a number have tasted Currie Cup action.

THE VENUEs

Ireland will play their matches in the northwest Italian cities of Treviso and Rovigo, an hour's drive apart. Treviso's Stadio Comunale di Monigo holds 6,700 spectators and is home to Benetton Treviso, who play in the Celtic League, while the Stadio Comunale Mario Battaglini in Rovigo holds 6,000.

THE FORMAT

The top team from each pool will go into the semi-finals along with the best runners-up. The other second-placed teams will go into a play-off for fifth place with the best-ranked third-placed side, while the bottom four sides will play off for ninth.

FIXTURES

Tomorrow

England v Ireland, Treviso, 5.10 (streamed live on www.irb.com/jwc)

Tuesday

Ireland v South Africa, Treviso, 7.10 (www.irb.com/jwc)

Saturday, June 18

Ireland v Scotland, Rovigo, 7.10 (www.irb.com/jwc)

ruaidhri o'connor

Irish Independent

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