Ireland and South Africa fight for Group B supremacy at rugby World Cup

By Paul Myers - RFI
South Africa AP - Thibault Camus
AP - Thibault Camus

Ireland and defending champions South Africa clash on Saturday night at the Stade de France for an eagerly awaited contest likely to determine who tops Group B at the rugby World Cup.

Both sides have started the tournament impressively. Ireland – the world's top ranked team – whacked Romania 82-8 in Bordeaux in their opening match and followed it up with a 59-16 victory over Tonga.

South Africa – who lie just behind the Irish in the ratings – crushed Scotland 18-3 in their first match and pulverised Romania 76-0.

"In a World Cup, you get different challenges and you have to adapt," said the South Africa defence coach Mzwandile Stick ahead of the tie with Ireland.

"It's going to be a tough game but that is how we want it," Stick added.


"We don't want any easy games. We will be prepared for it."

At the draw for the competition, Group B was anointed the 'Group of Death' for containing three of the world's top five sides in Ireland, South Africa and Scotland.

Even if Ireland were to beat South Africa, they could still come unstuck against the Scots who they face on 7 October. Following a two-week lay-off, Scotland resume their campaign on Sunday in Nice against Tonga.

They play Romania six days later before finsihing the pool stages with that game against Ireland at the Stade de France.

“It is not a must win game against South Africa," said Ireland coach Andy Farrell. "It is not a do-or-die but it is pretty important to both teams.


"There will be over 30,000 Irish supporters in a stadium we know well so it is a challenge we are ready for."

Before the world's top two sides battle for supremacy, Georgia play Portugal in Group C and in Group D; England take on World Cup debutants Chile at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille.

The match will witness the return of Owen Farrell to the England ranks.

The 31-year-old missed the first two games of the competition due to suspension.

In his absence, George Ford excelled at fly-half. Down to 14 men after the third-minute dismissal of Tom Curry, Ford kicked all of his side's points in the 27-10 success over a ragged Argentina team in their opening game on 9 September in Marseille.

Ford was named man-of-the-match in the rugged 34-12 victory over Japan in Nice on 17 September. The 30-year-old will be on the bench to accommodate Farrell's return.

“We are all tremendously excited to see our captain on the grass on Saturday," said England boss Steve Borthwick.


"He has been an incredible leader for this team despite being unable to play in the first two games. He has been a fantastic influence. He has been a role model on the training field and off the training field."

Chile head coach Pablo Lemoine announced nine changes to the line-up that started in the 43-10 defeat to Samoa in Bordeaux last Saturday.

"Some changes are due to performance, others due to injury and others to give players exposure in a rugby World Cup," said Lemoine.

"We are in a tournament but also working ahead to the next four years and we have to give everyone game experience.

"We do not have opportunities to play against the tier one sides like England, France and New Zealand. To improve, we must take advantage of these opportunities."

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024