Thursday 27 July 2017

Explained: Why a defeat against England could do serious damage to Ireland's World Cup chances

25 February 2017; Jamie Heaslip alongside his Ireland team-mates during the National Anthem ahead of the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
25 February 2017; Jamie Heaslip alongside his Ireland team-mates during the National Anthem ahead of the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

There's no championship at stake at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday but Ireland still have something very important to play for when England come to Dublin for the final game of the Six Nations.

Forget talk of 'spoiling England's party', although no doubt fans would love Joe Schmidt's men to scupper Eddie Jones' side's Grand Slam hopes and world record bid.

There is actually something important and tangible to play for this weekend.

Ireland entered the 2017 Six Nations in fourth position in the world rankings after a strong November that saw them beat both the All Blacks and Australia. Despite losing to Scotland and Wales so far in this campaign, Ireland remain in the top four, and it is crucial they stay there with the 2019 World Cup draw set to be made in May.

The top four teams in the world after the Six Nations will be top seeds for the draw, so Ireland would be able to avoid England, New Zealand and Australia in their pool if they can hold onto fourth spot.

A win against Eddie Jones' men would secure a World Cup top seed for Ireland, but if they suffer their third Six Nations defeat and Wales win away to France, then Rob Howley's side would move into the top four.

That would put Ireland in a much tougher pool, so as well as salvaging some pride after a disappointing tournament on Saturday, Ireland must be mindful that another negative result could also do serious damage to their World Cup hopes.

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