WORLD RANKING: 2
SUMMED UP IN THREE WORDS: Robust, Impulsive, Qualified
THE HEAD COACH: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt initially worked in several coaching roles in New Zealand including New Zealand Schools, Bay of Plenty and at Auckland as assistant coach. He then moved to the Northern Hemisphere, enjoying spells with Clermont Auvergne and Leinster. What followed was a call up to the big leagues, international Test rugby with Ireland and he has since guided the emerald green army to back-to-back Six Nations success in 2014 and 2015.
FAMILIAR FACES: Ireland’s masterful lock and Skipper Paul O’Connell is one of the most familiar and decorated figures in world rugby. Their fly-half Jonny Sexton, hooker Rory Best and Number 8 Jamie Heaslip are also well-established stars of the game.
KEY PLAYER: A rookie back at the 2011 World Cup, scrum-half Conor Murray is now, aged 26, at the peak of his powers. The accuracy of his box-kicking and effective partnership with Sexton makes him vital to the Ireland team.
YOUNG GUN: Centre Robbie Henshaw has coped superbly with the pressure of filling the void left by legend Brian O’Driscoll since he hung up his boots. The 22-year old since making his international bow in 2013 has made 12 test caps, touching down one try.
STYLE: They are never unprepared and have a plan for every match and if at their best they can be blockbusting to watch.
BEST RWC MOMENT: Having not beaten any of the Southern Hemisphere’s elite three sides in the previous 32 year’s Ireland finally overcame Australia at Eden Park during the Pool stage of the 2011 World Cup.
WORST RWC MOMENT: Ireland during the 2007 World Cup failed to escape the Pool for the first time, being thrashed by both France and Argentina in the process.
COMMENTATOR’S GO-TO FACT: Ireland had won a record-equaling 10 successive matches before losing to Wales in March.
EXPECTATIONS: Ireland fans have faced too much World Cup disappointment over the years having never reached a semi-final in their history. After success in recent years the emerald green army will expect more this time around.
VIEW FROM THE STANDS: Patrick, 33, Dublin
1. What do you expect from this Ireland team? For us to at the very least compete with the other big nations and at last get the monkey off our back and reach a World Cup semi-final.
2. Where do you think they are strong? I think we have strengths all over the park, but the Sexton/Murray partnership is what excites me the most. Cian Healey needs to get fit too; he is critically important.
3. Who do you think will win it? Fingers crossed Ireland. I think this will be our time at long last.
RUCK VERDICT: Ireland, on the back of their Six Nations success earlier this year, should top the Pool but will face resistance from France. After that they will be eager to go further then the quarter-finals for the first time in their World Cup history.
19/09/2015: Ireland vs. Canada, Millennium Stadium (Cardiff). Kick off 14:30
27/09/2015: Ireland vs. Romania, Wembley Stadium (London). Kick off 16:45
04/10/2015: Ireland vs. Italy, Olympic Stadium (London). Kick off 16:45
11/10/2015: France vs. Ireland, Millennium Stadium (Cardiff). Kick off 16:45
Total travelling between games: 369 miles
Forwards: Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Paul O’Connell (captain), Peter O’Mahony, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Nathan White.
Backs: Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw, Paddy Jackson, Dave Kearney, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan, Conor Murray, Jared Payne, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Zebo.