Paddy Power customers are feeling confident ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup quarter-final, as an overwhelming majority of Irish punters have backed the boys in green for victory.
Almost three quarters of Irish bettors (72%) have backed Ireland to shock the All Blacks in Tokyo.
Broken down by province, Leinster are the most confident of an Ireland victory, with a hefty 76% of bettors getting behind Joe Schmidt’s men. Munster is next on 14% followed by Ulster (8%) with Connacht fans feeling pessimistic rather than patriotic (2%).
Spokesman Paddy Power said: “Now’s the time for togetherness, but there’s a clear divide in the country over the Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and I don’t just mean whether we’d rather see the football team win. Given that I’m a Leinster man myself, it’s no surprise that the province is the most patriotic in Ireland – but perhaps, come Saturday evening, the people of Connaught will argue they’re the shrewdest in the land.”
Air New Zealand and Irish counterparts Aer Lingus have gotten involved in some corporate-friendly online banter, after the New Zealand airline decided to show their support for the All Blacks by poking fun at Irish fans ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final.
In the style of a flight safety message, Irish fans have been advised to fasten their seatbelts for the Haka, and adopt a crouched position when the All Blacks score a try.
And when one multi-national company dangles the viral content bait at a counterpart, you can guarantee such an offer will be taken up. Aer Lingus responded by saying: “Thanks for your concern, but two of our last three flights have actually been very enjoyable! Our crew is briefed, checklist complete and we're ready for take-off.”
Although for any airline, surely saying “two of our last three flights” have been enjoyable is a bad move in any context?
Former England star Ben Foden's on-field career might be winding down in Major League Rugby but he is winning a whole new set of fans.
The full-back, who won 34 caps and scored two tries at Rugby World Cup 2011, made his debut on the celebrity version of The X Factor this week, teaming up with fellow rugby stars Thom Evans and Levi Davis.
"Try Star" were among the best of a bad bunch with their performance of Blackstreet's No Diggity, prompting judge and former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger, to tell the bare-chested Foden: "I'm excited about your shirt right now, Ben."
"I still have to write my last chapter with Italy," the legendary number eight told a newspaper in France, where he signed for Toulon in July. "A typhoon won't end my adventure with the Azzurri."
Parisse's supposed swansong was ruined by Typhoon Hagibis, which forced the cancellation of Italy's final Pool B match against New Zealand. But could the 34-year-old sign off with an exhibition match in his honour? Or, with Parisse just six behind Richie McCaw's all-time test appearances record, could he play in all of Italy's 2020 Six Nations matches then set a new mark in the country of his birth, Argentina, where the Azzurri are rumoured to be touring next summer?
Time will tell.
The 25-year-old, a nominee for World Player of the Year award in 2018, is on the bench as Mbongeni Mbonambi starts. Wings Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi both start, with Handre Pollard at 10 and Damian de Allende at 12.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has named the same starting XV that beat Italy 49-3 in their penultimate pool match, after a second-string side swatted aside Canada 66-7 to secure second spot in Pool B.
However Marx is one of three players who were picked to start the meeting with New Zealand on the tournament's opening weekend, but have since fallen out of favour.
"Bongi is definitely a more physical, brutal, scrummaging, in-your-face hooker. Malcolm is very much in the same mould, and both will get close to 40 minutes," said Erasmus.
"But Bongi in the tighter first half, and if the game opens up a little bit more in the second half, Malcolm in the looser second half would benefit the team by selecting it in that way."
SOUTH AFRICA: W Le Roux: C Kolbe, L Am, D De Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F De Klerk, T Mtawarira, B Mbonambi, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L De Jager, S Kolisi (c), PS Du Toit, D Vermeulen
Replacements: M Marx, S Kitschoff, V Koch, RG Snyman, F Mostert, F Louw, H Jantjies, F Steyn
After a successful spell with Crusaders, it’s no surprise that our own Ronan O’Gara is still highly regarded in New Zealand. Also of little surprise is the fact that despite the globe-trotting that has taken him from Paris to Christchurch and now La Rochelle, ROG hasn’t lost the famous Cork lilt.
It’s a good thing then that he leads by example. So says Richie Mo’unga, who spoke about the ROG effect ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final. "ROG has been awesome,” said the All Blacks out-half. “He's still very hard to understand, so I take very little from our conversations, but he's very determined, very driven, and that gives me a little insight into what the Irish are like."
A video of Japan hooker Shota Hoprie and Jamie Joseph playing an innovative version of rock-paper-scissors that includes a plastic mallet and helmet might not have arrived on time for Olympics inclusion, but has proved a massive hit on social media.
Gleaning what we can from the video, it appears that the winner of each contest gets the chance to hit the loser over the head with the mallet, who in turn needs to scramble to retrieve the helmet before being struck.
Fumaiki Tanaka explained that the game is a long-standing tradition, although his revelation that the practice was temporarily halted during Eddie Jones' tenure isn't surprising.
"We normally have it once a week. We also had them under Sir John Kirwan but not when Eddie (Jones) was in charge. I don't think anyone could have smacked Eddie's head!"
"There's not a lot I can do; I can't ride him, I can't carry him, I can't train him, so it's just a matter of sitting back and enjoying that for what it is."
Coaches often discuss how little of an impact they can make when their charges cross the white line, but in this instance, All Blacks coach was talking about Nature Strip, a horse he part-owns, running in The Everest race in Sydney on Saturday. Hansen confirmed he would be watching the race which takes place five hours before kick-off.
Ireland in a good place but All Blacks built for knockout rugby