Ireland have been placed in a tricky Pool B alongside reigning world champions South Africa and Scotland.
RadioTimes.com has rounded up Brian O’Driscoll’s Rugby World Cup predictions for Ireland ahead of the tournament.
Rugby World Cup 2023 predictions
Interview by Kate Battersby. First featured in Radio Times magazine.
Pool B looks tough. Is it a given that Ireland will go through?
BoD: Watching Scotland a few weeks ago I thought, “My God, is there a chance we don’t?” We have to think we’re going to reach the quarter-finals, although those words could come back to ruin me. Then we could face either New Zealand or France — it couldn’t be much tougher.
And yet this is Ireland’s best ever chance to win the World Cup…
BoD: No doubt. We’ve failed to deliver before now, never even reaching a semi. This feels like a huge opportunity.
What is Ireland’s greatest strength?
BoD: Scoring tries from five metres out: holding possession there and finding a way to get over the line.
Who will be their key player?
BoD: That’s a photo finish between Johnny Sexton and Jamison Gibson-Park. The speed and tempo of that half-back partnership are vital.
Which other players should we look for?
BoD: I’m interested to see the teams with players who have converted back to the Pacific country of their birth or ancestry, particularly Tonga in Ireland’s pool.
Which underdogs can surprise people?
BoD: Fiji are a risk to Wales and Australia in Pool C. The only time in the four-year cycle that Fiji share a big pre-season together is before the World Cup.
Who do you think can be the rising star of this World Cup?
BoD: Ireland’s Caelan Doris is the perfect fit as a No.8 for what they’re trying to do.
Which player would you secretly want to have in the Ireland team?
BoD: France’s Antoine Dupont is in a different sphere to everyone else.
If it’s not Ireland, who will win?
BoD: New Zealand. They’re quietly going about their business and will be a real handful as the tournament progresses.
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