Joe Schmidt a happy man as Ireland beat Romania at Wembley

Published: Sunday 27th September 2015 by The News Editor

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Ireland boss Joe Schmidt declared that his side’s World Cup starts now after they claimed a convincing bonus-point victory over Romania.

The 44-10 win at Wembley sees Ireland move to the top of Pool D but their progress to the quarter-finals will depend on tougher tests against both France and, more immediately, Italy next Sunday.

Ireland can guarantee qualification to the knock-out stages if they beat the Italians at the Olympic Stadium but it will be important to finish first too, given reigning champions New Zealand could lie in wait for the runners-up.

“Next week is the pivotal week,” Schmidt said.

“It’s where we can qualify ourselves. The game against France just decides who we play in the quarter-final if we can win next week.

“It’s pressure for us and pressure for Italy. That’s why people come to a World Cup – they want to see how teams respond to the pressure cooker environment.”

Schmidt added: “We know we can qualify if we win next weekend. Italy, after a win and a loss, need to win next weekend to qualify. It becomes a last-16 game for us.”

Ireland are sweating on the fitness of Rob Kearney for the match after he injured himself scoring the fifth try shortly after coming on as a substitute.

“Rob was involved in a high-speed play after coming on the pitch and just after scoring the try he’s jarred himself,” Schmidt said.

“We hope it’s not too much but the next 24 to 48 hours will tell if he’s done anything telling for next week.

“It’s through his glute and hip. It happened when his knee hit the ground.”

Losing Kearney would be a blow to Ireland but a number of players put their hand up for selection after a dominant performance against Romania.

Schmidt made 12 changes with Italy and France in mind, but his altered line-up showed few signs of weakness, scoring six tries, including four in the second half.

Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls crossed the line twice each, before Kearney and Chris Henry added two more late on, and Simon Zebo also staked a claim with an impressive display at full-back.

“There were a number of players who performed really well and will create a big of selection headache for Italy,” Schmidt said.

“I don’t think you’re ever totally satisfied. We know we’ve been imperfect but it’s a difficult thing to work through a couple of games where you’re heavily favoured.”

Earls’ second try was his seventh at World Cups, bringing him level with Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland’s top-scorer in the tournament’s history.

“It’s nice for him to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brian O’Driscoll,” Schmidt said. “Because that’s the standard that any Irish player in the backline wants to reach.”

Published: Sunday 27th September 2015 by The News Editor

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