BUOYANT Irish full-back Rob Kearney believes Ireland are now genuine World Cup contenders.
Yesterday's demolition of the Azzurri in a do-or-die showdown at Otago Stadium confirmed the form which saw Declan Kidney’s men topple the Wallabies a fortnight ago.
Kearney believes the clinical way in which Italy were dispatched 36-6 has sent a message to their rivals that Ireland are ready to rule the world.
“We had that great win against Australia, but there were still a lot of doubters out there,” said the Leinster and Lions full-back.
“In terms of building a legacy and how this Ireland team wants to be known, beating Italy was quite important.
“Topping the pool has got us into a quarter-final, but we want to go a lot further.”
However, the outlook for injured hooker Rory Best is bleak. The Ulsterman sprained the AC join in his right shoulder and is in a race against time to be fit to face the Welsh in Wellington this Saturday. Ireland manager Paul McNaughton said they “haven’t written him off just yet”.
Meanwhile, Cian Healy has been quizzed by Rugby World Cup citing commissioners over an alleged gouging attempt by Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini during yesterday’s game.