Following Ireland’s impressive victory against Italy, captain Liam Finn has urged his team to stay focused ahead of their game against Papa New Guinea. A victory would give Ireland a real possibility of playing England in a quarter-final tie in England, but Finn knows that’s a big ask.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before we dare to dream of going to Melbourne,” Finn said, recognising the challenge that PNG represent.
He did, however, suggest that some of his players would not be fazed by meeting the team most likely to win Group C.
“There’s three or four lads in this team who really don’t care who’s who – they’re not bothered who they’re playing against or what their name is.”
Finn and his teammates have every right to be feeling positive after scoring six tries against Italy in their World Cup opener. Papa New Guinea will be a VERY different test, though. A quick comparison of the odds for the match shows that PNG are the overwhelming favourites to win at 1/5. Ireland, meanwhile, can be backed at odds as long as 6/1.
No-one could argue with PNG being the pre-match favourites. The co-hosts were rampant in brushing Wales aside 50-6 last week, with David Mead looking especially impressive. They carried the ball very aggressively, and Wales had no real answer for that. The question is, will Ireland?
Finn certainly seems to know what to expect.
“They’ve got a style of play that’s pretty straightforward, route one,” he said.
“If you don’t deal with it you end up getting beat heavily.”
Knowing what to expect and actually dealing with such tough opposition are two different things, of course. But it’s not unreasonable to think that Ireland will give PNG a tougher game than Wales did. The Welsh side was young and inexperienced, and that’s not an issue for this Ireland team.
One issue that Ireland WILL face is the climate. The game’s being played in Port Moresby, capital of Papa New Guinea, and it’s likely to be hot and stifling. The PNG players are quite used to playing in this kind of weather, but the Irish players are not. Then there’s the fact that PNG will have the advantage of a passionate home crowd behind them.
All in all, Ireland will do well to do anything out of the game. Coach Mark Aston has named an unchanged team for the fixture, but it’s unlikely his side will get the same result they did against Italy. They won’t go down without a fight, though, so this could be a great game to watch.