The 10th renewal of the Rugby World Cup is underway in France, and in many fans and pundits’ opinions, it is arguably Ireland’s best chance to get their hands on the famed Webb Ellis Cup. Andy Farrell’s men are currently the number one-ranked side in the world, and they are amongst the favourites in the odds on rugby union to win the World Cup.
Whether or not Ireland have the guile to outwit the likes of defending champions South Africa, three-time winners New Zealand and hosts France remains to be seen, but they are world no.1 for a reason and they have form on their side after winning the Grand Slam and beating the All Blacks 2-1 in a three-series test on their turf already this year.
A World Cup triumph would be monumental for both the boys in green and Ireland’s rich sporting heritage in general. So, as we wait with bated breath to see if Farrell’s side can win the World Cup, let’s take a look back at five of Ireland’s best moments in the tournament.
1991: Brian Robinson’s four tries against Zimbabwe
In what was the second renewal of the Rugby World Cup, Ireland’s number eight Brian Robinson became the first player in the tournament’s history to score four tries in a single game as they thrashed Zimbabwe 55-11 at Lansdown Road in Dublin. The Ulsterman’s compatriot Keith Wood emulated the feat against the USA in 1999, but both remain the only forwards to score four tries in a single World Cup game to this day.
2011: Ireland beat Australia in Pool C
Ireland had faced Australia four times at the Rugby World Cup before the 2011 renewal but had failed to beat the Wallabies on any of those occasions — most notably going down by a single point in the 17-16 defeat in Melbourne in 2003. That all changed in 2011 when Ireland won 15-6 at Eden Park in Auckland and went on to top Pool C ahead of the Aussies. Ireland were ultimately beaten in the quarters by Wales, who Australia beat in the third-place match to win bronze.
2015: Ireland beat France to break hoodoo
Another side the boys in green had failed to beat in a Rugby World Cup fixture, losing to France in South Africa in 1995 (36-12), in Australia in 2003 (43-21) and at the Stade de France (25-3) in 2007, Ireland finally broke their duck against Les Bleus in 2015 with a commanding 24-9 victory at the Millennium Stadium. The win meant Ireland topped Pool D and avoided the All Blacks in the last eight, but they were hampered by injuries and lost to Argentina in the quarters.
2003: Brian O’Driscoll’s performances against Australia and France
Ireland might not have won either of these games at the 2003 World Cup, but Brian O’Driscoll’s personal performances against Australia and France can still be admired in defeat. The legendary centre fought tooth and nail against the Wallabies in their own backyard, scoring a stunning try right in the corner to make it 14-13 and he later scored a drop goal to make it 17-16. Ireland’s quarter-final against France was one largely to forget, as it ended 43-21, but it would have been worse had it not been for O’Driscoll’s late brace.
2023: Ireland’s record World Cup win
A moment that only happened this year, Ireland made a massive statement of intent with an 82-8 win over Romania in their opening game of the World Cup. The 10th-ranked side in the world scored the first try of the game in the third minute, but Ireland were soon on top and scored four first-half tries to take a comfortable lead into the dressing room. The rampage continued in the second 40 minutes, as they scored a further seven tries to no response from Romania. It marked Ireland’s biggest win at World Cup.