Ireland and Wales too close to pick the winner

Ireland defence coach Les Kiss has said that Ireland and Wales are so evenly matched for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final it is too difficult to pick a winner.

Kiss said the match in Wellington was a huge opportunity for both teams, with Ireland eyeing its maiden semi-final at the tournament and Wales its first since the inaugural World Cup in 1987.

“It’s absolutely massive for both unions… we are going to a place we have never been before,” Kiss, who represented Australia in rugby league and previously helped organise the Wallabies’ defence, said.

He expected a close contest between the northern hemisphere rivals, who are familiar with each others’ key players and game plans.

“We’ve played each other so much in recent times that it’s a fairly reasonable thing to say that it’s going to be 50-50,” he said.

“There will be some critical pressure moments in this game. We need to be there or thereabouts in the last 20 minutes.”

Online bookmaker Centrebet has Ireland slightly ahead of Wales to win the match, paying NZ$1.75 for every dollar placed on them, with Wales paying $2.10.

Kiss also confirmed Ireland hooker Rory Best was fully recovered from a dislocated shoulder and would start the match.

“Rory has come up great. We obviously had some precautions in place ready to cover him, but he’s in tip top shape. He’s fine to start,” he said.

Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip said Best’s return was a huge boost for the team.

“He’s very experienced, a key member of this side,” he said.

Heaslip said the entire Ireland team had gained valuable experience from the fact Irish clubs had won four out of the last six European Cups and Saturday’s match was a chance to display that knowledge on the world stage.

“It’s a real opportunity to do what no Irish team has done before and reach the semi-finals,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity we wantto take advantage of with both hands,” he said.

“We’ve had the experience of playing against them every year and playing against them at club level.

“Sometimes the best teams don’t win — it’s the team that knows how to win.”


Ireland (15-1)

Robert Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris; Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble

Wales (15-1)

Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Dan Lydiate; Alun-Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris; Adam Jones, Huw Bennett, Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Paul James, Bradley Davies, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams

Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)

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