As a veteran of the 2003 and 2007 tournaments, Leinster coach Girvan Dempsey can easily identify with the emotions that the Irish squad will be experiencing ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
In the absence of the injured Geordan Murphy, the former Terenure College student was first-choice full-back in Australia 12 years ago, and he also featured in Pool D encounters against Namibia, Georgia and France four years later. Speaking ahead of Joe Schmidt’s final squad announcement, Dempsey felt that there would be a lot of excitement within the camp, even though there is always a lot of nerves before the final selection is made.
“From my own experience, you’ve got to the stage where you are a bit nervous waiting for the final selection. Apprehensive that you’ve got your name on that list of 31 players.
“But I think all the work is done and they are itching to get going, so hopefully once that 31 is announced, then it’s the excitement of the tournament,” Dempsey remarked in UCD yesterday.
“If you look at this group of players through the pre-season they’ve had and where they are at, they seem to be very well prepared. They seem to be well conditioned. I don’t think as a team or a collective they have shown too much. They have kept their cards very close to their chest.
“In terms of match preparation, they are match hardened and ready and I’d imagine they were very disappointed at the loss at the weekend [against Wales], but I’d say they learned a huge amount from it. They are in a good place going into the start of the tournament.”
Before they kick-start their World Cup campaign against Canada on September 19, Ireland will take part in a final warm-up fixture with England at Twickenham on Saturday. Although there aren’t any points up for grabs in this encounter, Dempsey knows that they will be aiming to secure a victory nevertheless.
“Ideally you go into every match, no matter what it is, you go in to win it. That’s what it is.”
However, while Saturday’s defeat to Wales was certainly seen as a disappointment, it should be remembered that Ireland lost all of their warm-up clashes prior to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, before topping their Pool in New Zealand with four wins from four.
Isa Nacewa (who has returned to the Leinster ranks two years on from his initial retirement at the age of 30) appeared as substitute for Fiji against Scotland in the 2003 tournament, and although his mind has been focused on Leinster in recent weeks, he feels that the warm-up games are largely forgotten about once the World Cup gets underway.
“It’s hard to know. Certainly with Leinster’s last few weeks, I haven’t really thought about it too much.
“But you think, nobody remembers what happens in the warm-ups. It’s not about that, it’s about the first game of the World Cup,” Nacewa stated.
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