Tadhg Peavoy looks back over the most recent Rugby World Cup performances of Ireland's Six Nations opponents.
Ten-try England – with seven tries from their lauded back three – finally cut loose against Romania.
Their five first-half tries came from out wide. Hat-tricks for Mark Cueto and Chris Ashton indicated one thing yet again: the English are one of the best in the world on the flanks and threaten any team from that position.
To further the theory, Ben Foden added a wide score after the break and flanker Tom Croft then popped up on the left wing to touch down. Ashton completed his hat-trick late on.
Romania were tired warriors by the time this game came around and it was hard to learn much about England in this one as they were so far out of sight by half-time.
Martin Johnson’s side did give away many needless penalties; they infringed at the breakdown regularly. Whether this is because they were playing Romania and felt it easier to concede the penalty and get a break in play then defend, or if they were just a poor at the breakdown, is the aspect that is hard to define.
Johnson will definitely look at this issue prior to the meeting with the Scots.
Les Bleus were weak at the breakdown, just like they were against Japan and Canada. New Zealand exposed this soft underbelly ruthlessly.
France committed too few numbers and the All Blacks waltzed through the gates at ruck time.
Marc Lievremont's France are under serious scutiny
The French defence was very poor, with missed tackles throughout the team, especially in midfield.
The key to New Zealand’s success was ensuring that the key strike runners were lined up against forwards; this led to mismatches the France team couldn’t cope with.
Even the France scrum crumbled, conceding a penalty for collapsing in the second half.
When a lineout was thrown crooked by France on 61 minutes, you sensed they had given up on the game and were happy to keep the score as it was. Meanwhile, New Zealand were happy to coast to the end and not reveal too much more to their future opposition.
Having seen how poor France were, I think it is fair to say they didn’t want to win this game.
They played like an uncommitted side – bar the opening five minutes.
The truth is that losing and therefore gaining a place in the top half of the draw is the better and easier route to the final.
France are now likely to avoid South Africa and Australia in the semi-finals and instead will look at taking on England in the quarters. A proposition they will fancy.
The stats say it all. New Zealand turned over ball at five French rucks and France missed 19 tackles.
Like England, Wales totally outclassed their opponents this week. Their victory over Namibia was a training-ground exercise where they hammered the southern African side all over the field. Namibia had merely four days to recover from their encounter with South Africa and were clearly not adequately recovered in time.
One of the major points to emerge from this World Cup is that the tier-two nations must be given more recovery time between matches at England 2015. The hammerings given on the back of only a few days’ turnaround do the world game no favours.
All going to script this weekend, Ireland will be drawn to face Wales in the quarter-finals. If Ireland can continue their scum dominance against Italy, then it must be noted they can do damage to Wales at this set-piece. The Welsh were put under pressure by Namibia and this could be a tactic for Ireland to implement against the Dragons.
Is the Wales scrum a weakness?
Wales’ offloading, recycling and interchanges were at their devilish best and they look a side bursting with confidence. Be assured, as much as Ireland would be delighted to draw Wales in the quarter-finals, Wales will be licking their collective chops at the prospect of taking on Declan Kidney’s men.
Not the most creative, but the most exciting game of RWC 2011 so far was Scotland’s defeat to Argentina. The Scots were, in fact, the better team in this contest and deserved to win the tie.
Scotland played the right game. They spread wide at most opportunities and attempted to out-create the Pumas. The Scots met a resolute Argentine defence, packed with loose forwards in the backline, tackling with an aggressive rush defence.
The Pumas also contested the breakdown ferociously, attempting to snaffle Scottish ball, leading to Scotland’s first penalty chance, which Chris Paterson missed.
Ruairdh Jackson at outhalf was the right choice for Scotland and got his backline moving throughout. His spreading of the ball and vision of the game is so superior to Dan Parks’ game and Jackson delivered a fine performance.
The torrid weather conditions at Wellington Regional Stadium conspired to turn the game into a kicking duel. Scotland kept playing the more creative and retention-high rugby and got themselves into the position to knock over enough kicks to lead 12-6.
But, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino’s late try - which was converted - put Argentina into a one-point lead, which ultimately won them the match. That try defined the difference between the Pumas and Scotland: the Argentines were dominated the entire match, but when push came to shove, they had the quality to get the score that proved crucial. Scotland played the right game, but couldn’t execute it well enough to yield a crucial five-pointer.
In addition, Andy Robinson had substituted both of his half-backs, Rory Lawson and Jackson for Mike Blair and Dan Parks. Without the former duo’s vision, Scotland could not create enough to win back the lead.
Andy Robinson consoles Graeme Morrison (l) and Dan Parks (r) following defeat to Argentina
The Scots must now defeat England, denying the Red Rose a bonus-point, and hope Argentina claim a bonus-point win over Georgia, in order to qualify for the last eight. Personally, I cannot see it happening.
The Azzurri were made to work hard for their bonus-point win against Eddie O’Sullivan’s US Eagles. However, the Italians brand of hard-nosed scrum play, combined with their ever developing creativity behind the pack was enough to see them home.
Once more, Sergio Parisse was outstanding. He is now without question the best number eight in the world. However, whether he is good enough to out-create the entire Irish backrow is questionable - even doubtful.
Can Ireland contain Sergio Parisse?
Italy again used their grubber to the corner tactic for Tommaso Benvenuti to chase on to. I am sure they will use it against Ireland – Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls beware.
Luciano Orquera’s display has also confirmed him as Italy’s best outhalf – he will almost definitely be picked to play Ireland.
Another Italian penalty try from a scrum in the second half against the Eagles reinforced the Azzurri’s strength in this area.
Cian Healy and Mike Ross should be well up to the job of negating the Azzurri set-piece. However, if they get injured, Ireland will be under massive pressure in the Dunedin Pool C decider.