As Ireland's opening Rugby World Cup clash with Canada approaches this Saturday, Tadhg Peavoy talks to members of the press from Ireland's four Pool D opponents - France, Italy, Canada and Romania - to gauge their opinion of Joe Schmidt's team.


How is the Ireland team rated in France?

For everybody in France, Ireland are above the French team at present. It's clear from the last two games and the recent world rankings.

Which Ireland players are most feared?

The flankers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien, as well as Jamie Heaslip at Number 8. They're very strong and compatible. But Rob Kearney and Paul O'Connell are world-class players and Johnny Sexton can be very efficient in front of the posts.

Johnny Sexton slots a penalty against France

How will Ireland fare against France?

It's very difficult to answer that because the game against France is the last of the pool, so the result will depend of the games before. But the game should decide who wins the pool.

Will Ireland win Pool D and how far will they go in the World Cup?

I don't know if Ireland will win Pool D, but at this moment they're favourites. And yes, Ireland can go far in this World Cup, probably the semi-finals.


How is the Ireland team rated in Italy?

The general opinion in Italy is that Ireland can win the World Cup. The boys in green are very popular and respected in Italy. Italian fans would be disappointed if Ireland don't get into the semi-finals.

Which Ireland players are most feared in Italy?

Johnny Sexton - considered the best European Number 10 at the moment - and Robbie Hensaw. Yes, Italian rugby fans aren't that large a group, but they are very competent about the game.

Robbie Henshaw in action against England at Aviva Stadium

How will Ireland fare against Italy?

Difficult to say. The Italians fans are focused on the game against France, their first match. A good solid Italy can create a lot of problems for anybody, and beat both Ireland and France in 2013. It depends on what Italy shows up on the day. If, by a miracle, Italy beat France, a real miracle, since they are playing without the injured Sergio Parisse, the group would be much more difficult for Ireland and everything would be possible.

Will Ireland win Pool D and how far will they go in the World Cup?

Italians fans cheer for France or Ireland according to their personal preferences. Ireland more than France though.

My opinion is that if Ireland win the pool they will go to the final four. Otherwise they are playing the All Blacks in the quarter-final. They can win this too - yes, they can, but then they'll lose in the semi-final whoever the opponent.


How is the Ireland team rated in Canada?

I’ll be honest. With the Toronto Blue Jays (Canada’s lone Major League Baseball team) heading towards the play-offs, the National Football League having just kicked off its season, the Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer in mid-season mode and National Hockey League teams preparing for training camp, mainstream sports fans in Canada have plenty on their plate ahead of rugby.

But those who follow the sport clearly see Ireland as the class of Pool D.

Which Ireland players are most feared in Canada?

Johnny Sexton for his ability to pull the strings in a game. Fly-half has been an issue for Canada since the days of Gareth Rees, now manager of the national men’s programme. Sexton is pure class. Paul O’Connell is a legendary lock, who has had some memorable runs-in with Canadian hard man Jamie Cudmore.

Jamie Cudmore in action for Clermont

How will Ireland fare against Canada?

Canada will be up for their first game of the tournament against Ireland, so they'll give that one all and more. But unlike Canada, Ireland are a fully professional side and a good one at that. Logic and experience suggest that the Canadians will hold up their end for a while, then fade in the face of a superior side.

Will Ireland win Pool D and how far will they go in the World Cup?

The mercurial French are always hard to predict but my sense is that Ireland will overcome them to win the pool. A possible date with Argentina in the quarter-finals is no gimme but I believe the Irish can make the semi-finals. My guess is the Irish will go no further.


How is the Ireland team rated in Romania?

Ireland are considered one of the best European teams. After winning the Six Nations twice in a row, I think Ireland could go all the way to the World Cup final.

Which Ireland players are most feared in Romania?

Johnny Sexton, Rory Best and Paul O’Connell.

Rory Best

How will Ireland fare against Romania?

Ireland will win by 30 points.

Will Ireland win Pool D and how far will they go in the World Cup?

I think Ireland will win Pool D by beating France in the last pool match. That probably puts them in quarter-final against Argentina, and then maybe Australia in the semi-finals. But, personally I think Ireland can get to the final. They won't win the trophy, but they'll get to the final.