Farrell: Ireland excited by Rugby World Cup test

Andy Farrell 9/3/2020
Andy Farrell says Ireland will relish testing themselves against the best after being drawn in a pool with South Africa for Rugby World Cup 2023.

Andy Farrell says Ireland will relish testing themselves against the best after being drawn in a pool with South Africa for Rugby World Cup 2023.

The Springboks will head to France in three years’ time as the reigning champions after beating England in the World Cup final in 2019 and are currently the No.1 side in the World Rugby rankings.

Ireland were drawn into Pool B alongside South Africa and Guinness Six Nations rivals Scotland, who they beat 19-12 at the Aviva Stadium in Round 1 of the 2020 Championship.

The pool will be completed by an Asia/Pacific qualifier and Europe qualifier, that will be decided during qualifying over the next two years.

Ireland beat South Africa when the teams last met back in 2017 and rather than fearing a clash against a formidable Springboks outfit, Farrell was delighted with the outcome of the World Cup draw.

“There’s nothing better than a Rugby World Cup draw to get your rugby juices flowing,” the Ireland head coach said. “Players and fans alike know what the journey looks like and it’s super-exciting.

“You’re always going to judge yourselves against the best and at this moment South Africa are No.1 in the world and rightly so. That’s a great challenge for us.

“We get to play Scotland every year in the Guinness Six Nations, that rivalry will continue. It’s a strong rivalry.

“South Africa, it looks like we might get to play them in one of the November internationals. It’s not confirmed yet, but it looks like we’ll get to play them once before the World Cup which would be great.

“Obviously there’s a Lions tour [to South Africa, next summer] as well and that could be an opportunity for our guys.”

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw, who has faced the Springboks four times during his international career, also gave his reaction to the draw – although he expects a lot to change before the World Cup kicks off in France in 2023.

“We’re a good bit from it, is my initial thoughts – so it’s a lot of rugby to be played,” he said. It’s definitely a challenging group.

“I think we’ve played South Africa a lot in the last few years. We’ve been on tour there, they came up here twice, so we know the challenge that they bring.

“They’ve definitely gotten better and better through the years, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them over the next few years, over the next year or so anyway.”

Ireland have also had the better of group rivals Scotland in the past few years – winning nine of the last ten encounters between the sides.

They will square off at least more three times before the World Cup, in each of the next three editions of the Guinness Six Nations, and Henshaw won’t be taking Gregor Townsend’s troops lightly.

“Scotland are on a similar path to us,” he added. “We know we can’t take anything for granted against them, they’ll definitely see us as an opportunity in that group.

“I think that’s how they’ve seen it in the past as well.”