Ireland 50 Canada 7
Jamie Cudmore’s cheap yellow card gifted Ireland the ideal World Cup start, Joe Schmidt’s men thumping Canada 50-7 in Cardiff.
Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson, Johnny Sexton and Dave Kearney crossed to secure the try bonus point in just 35 minutes, before Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney and Jared Payne completed the rout.
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell was sin-binned for an unwitting but ultimately cynical offside, both teams’ totems slipping off the disciplinary tightrope though remarkably without a punch in sight.
Luke Fitzgerald made an overdue World Cup debut for Ireland after missing out on the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, but was parachuted into the unfamiliar surroundings of inside centre against Canada.
Canada were captained by Cudmore in the absence of flanker Tyler Ardron, while Ireland boss Joe Schmidt preferred Fitzgerald over specialist 12 Darren Cave to replace the injured Robbie Henshaw.
Cave was a surprise inclusion in Ireland’s final World Cup 31, Schmidt gambling on naming the Ulsterman ahead of a third scrum-half.
Ireland failed to gain any scoreboard fruit from their early battering of Canada's scrum in the game's first set-piece.
Conor Murray’s blindside break came to nothing, before Johnny Sexton fired a wayward miss-pass straight into touch.
Scottish-born scrum-half Gordon McRorie failed with a long-range penalty for Canada after Jamie Heaslip was pinged for killing the ball.
Fitzgerald almost cut through on a smart inside line as Ireland built phase play for the first time in the match, but Murray failed with a chip to the corner with a penalty in hand.
Play came back for Canada killing the ball under the sticks, and Sexton duly eased Ireland into a three-point lead.
Ireland turned down a regulation penalty shot to tap and go, but botched two overlaps in failing to score.
Cudmore was sin-binned for handling in the ruck on his line, and Sean O’Brien drove home from the ensuing lineout.
Sexton’s conversion handed Ireland a 10-0 lead.
Paul O’Connell was denied a try, held up over the line after Peter O’Mahony’s soft-hands offload cut Canada open.
Iain Henderson powered home for Ireland’s second try moments later, after another punishing scrum from Schmidt’s men.
Sexton exchanged passes with O’Brien to race away for Ireland’s third, Canada completely overwhelmed by Cudmore’s sin-binning.
Dave Kearney sauntered in for Ireland’s bonus-point fourth score with five minutes to spare in the half, Cudmore’s reappearance doing little to boost Canada’s chances.
DTH Van der Merwe thought he had scored for Canada at the death of the half, but Nathan Hirayama’s tap-pass travelled forward and the try was chalked off.
Ireland handed themselves the worst possible opening to the second-half, captain O'Connell sin-binned for cynically intercepting the ball from an offside position.
The Toulon-bound talisman’s interjection may have been instinct, but still proved costly.
Ireland were able to ride out Canada’s initial wave of attacks, but the match fractured badly with the error-count rising steadily.
Canada were unable to take advantage of O’Connell’s sin-binning however, Ireland holding impressively firm.
Cudmore and O’Connell famously slugged it out in one of European rugby’s biggest-ever punch-ups in 2008, when the Canadian was sent off at Munster in action for Clermont.
O’Connell was handed a yellow card for that incident, and Cudmore has since launched a wine business aptly named ’Sin-Bin’.
There was an inevitability about disciplinary wrangles for the two behemoths then, but there was none of the customary niggle that has coloured their engaging contests of the past.
Ian Madigan replaced Sexton ahead of the hour, a clear statement of satisfaction from taskmaster boss Schmidt.
Bigger challenges await and Schmidt knows full well Ireland will struggle to function without Sexton’s wit and acumen.
Cian Healy joined the fray on the hour, his first outing since neck surgery in May.
Jebb Sinclair celebrated wildly in dotting down over the line, only for his effort to be ruled out for a clear offside.
Sean Cronin burrowed home for Ireland’s fifth try with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, Madigan posting the conversion too.
Van der Merwe claimed an intercept try to console the hard-working Canadians who fought throughout to play open and flowing rugby.
The Scarlets wing raced away after Jared Payne booted the ball straight into his arms at point-blank range.
Canada threatened again, but Ireland forced a turnover and raced the length, Keith Earls outpacing John Moonlight before floating a fine scoring pass to Rob Kearney.
Earls broke once more, this time through the centre, before sending Payne home for Ireland’s seventh score.
Ireland launched one further attack, Healy knocking on in attempting to ground for the try.