It’s the rugby equivalent of a newly formed unattractive couple. Each part of the couple involved will think the people looking in on the relationship will identify them as the hot one and ‘the catch’ of the pair when in reality everyone just sees two ugly and rather arrogant people. Both sides will think this game is entirely winnable and can take a certain amount of questionable confidence from the pool stages into the game.
Wales got plenty of pats on the back for running South Africa close in their opening game of the tournament, but in reality it was a game they should have won and all the inferiority-complexes in the world can’t hide that. They showed some steel to overcome Samoa when far from their best and followed that up by trouncing Namibia and Fiji. Ireland started the tournament by limping to a victory over the USA, but turned it around dramatically to beat Australia and in doing so open up the tournament for all the 6 Nations teams involved. The improvement was rubber-stamped with comprehensive wins over Russia and Italy and now the over-the-top predictions of doom and gloom have been replaced by over-the-top predictions of glory and success. It really is likely to be tighter than a pair of skinny jeans on Vanessa Feltz.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in recent years, it’s mainly been Warren Gatland breeding the contempt. His mind games have got under Irish skin at times, but all it’s achieved is rugby getting more attention in tabloid newspapers than it normally would. Since taking the Welsh job, he’s W2 L2 against Ireland with the most recent win coming largely as a result of Jonathan Kaplan clearly taking an inopportune nap during rules class at referee school. Meetings at the Rugby World Cup don’t give us much to go on, with both sides having won one game in the past that has little bearing on Saturday’s – Wales way back in 1987 and Ireland slightly less way back in 1995.
It’s hard know how the game will go, but come the end you can guarantee one team will be fancying their chances of reaching a World Cup final and one team will be kicking themselves for missing a great chance of reaching a World Cup final.