Rugby

Austin Healy Outlines Why He's Backing Ireland For World Cup Success

Austin Healy Outlines Why He's Backing Ireland For World Cup Success

Usually, when we feature the words of Austin Healy here on Balls.ie they are in relation to a story one of his former teammates has told about him being an eejit, or some back-handed compliment about the Irish team after a win, but on Wednesday night's episode of BT Sport we were rather surprised by what we saw.

When Craig Doyle steered the topic of discussion towards Ireland - as he often does to be fair to him - we were fully expecting the former Leicester and Lions utility back to praise the results but ultimately make some sort of disparaging comment despite three wins from three in the Autumn internationals, but instead Healy offered nothing but praise for the Irish team.

In fact, he went one further as Healy discussed Ireland as a good bet to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, stating that while Ireland will not be entering the tournament as favourites, he will be holding Joe Schmidt's side in that regard.

The reason for Healy's championing of Ireland as possible World Cup winners, it seems, is a level of depth that he believes was missing in past tournaments as well as the unearthing of some bright young stars.

They've unearthed a few new players and that is probably the thing they needed the most.

Ireland's first choice team, particularly with the group they've got at the World Cup, means they are going to go through to the knockout stages. Then if they can keep everyone fit, they have a really good chance of winning the next World Cup.

They are not going to be favourites, they aren't going to be in the top four favourites but for me, they definitely are. They are going to win that group and they have some pace out wide now. Byrne, I thought, was particularly impressive. You have some size as well with Stockdale on the left wing.

You've got options there now where in previous years you had the top 15 guys and then behind that no-one with any caps or experience, but that's starting to change. So Ireland, for me, had a very successful autumn, weren't tested that much, but are really on the right road towards the World Cup.

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It's almost like it's not actually Austin Healy if he doesn't get a sly dig in somewhere, so that was a bit odd.

In all seriousness, it's a sensible enough view from him and one that many Irish fans would echo, as with Scotland and Japan as our confirmed opponents thus far with two qualifiers to join in, we do have a very good chance to reach the knockout stages without the intense physical exertion of the groups that cost us so dearly against Argentina in 2015.

Of course, this all could be part of his plan to hype up the Irish team so that they are considered favourites which brings more pressure, particularly with Scotland and Japan targeting their games with us as pivotal moments, in which case we can just blame Austin Healy again if it all goes pear-shaped.

Win win.

Mikey Traynor

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