Swaths of green filled the streets of Yokohama. Shoulder-to-shoulder rang out inside the stadium. Thousands of those typically boisterous Irish fans did not leave disappointed after watching their men clinically crush Scotland to open their Rugby World Cup in ruthless fashion, and set up a potentially engrossing quarter-final with the Springboks.

Ireland are, officially at least, the world's No 1 ranked team.

While the All Blacks laid down a marker in their opening win over the Springboks so, too, did Ireland's forward pack send a statement of intent in this 27-3 victory.

Clearly there will be no mystery about how Ireland attacks this World Cup.


Nothing Ireland did was particularly surprising or spectacular. But what they did they did very effectively. From the first exchanges their pack steamrolled Scotland. CJ Stander and Iain Henderson's storming charges were but two instances of big men in green running rampant.

This platform allowed Conor Murray to expertly control and kick from the base, as he loves to do. Ireland's rush midfield defence then put Scotland stars Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg under all sorts of pressure to force repeated mistakes from their backline.

Ireland offer little endeavour when they reach the opposition 22, and are not the most entertaining team to watch – with a 24-3 lead they opted to take the shot at goal from right in front.

Close to the line they are more than content to bash away either with the pick and go or one off the ruck. More often than not, they also back their maul to do the job too.

Men with the size and strength of world-class lock James Ryan and prop Tadhg Furlong are always incredibly difficult to stop from close range – and this is exactly how the Irish pack crashed over for three first-half tries, four by the finish, to squeeze the life out of Scotland.

Ireland's Tadhg Furlong (centre), carries a ball to score the team's third try against Scotland. Photo / AP
Ireland's Tadhg Furlong (centre), carries a ball to score the team's third try against Scotland. Photo / AP

Joe Schmidt's steely gaze on the sideline just before the break, his side leading 19-3 at that stage, said everything about the standards he has instilled in this Ireland side.

Ireland have struggled to hit the heights of 2018, when they rolled the All Blacks in Dublin and were team of the year, but their struggles of the past 12 months will quickly be forgotten if they replicate this form to push past the quarter-finals for the first time in history.

Japan and Samoa still wait in this pool so it's too soon, perhaps, to make definitive quarter-final predictions.


If all goes to form now, though, Ireland will meet the Boks and the All Blacks, on the basis of this bumbling performance, will gladly accept the Scots, who also lost key flanker Hamish Watson to a nasty knee injury, or possibly Japan if the hosts can pull off another major World Cup upset.

After this effort from Scotland, Japan will rightly fancy their chances.

Irish fans should temper excitement, somewhat, given Scotland really were that poor. Any time they looked threatening fumbles, turnovers, poor pass and aimless kicks squandered attacking chances.

Conditions, with steady rain falling throughout the second half, were challenging and favoured Ireland's gameplan but at this level that is no excuse.

Ireland's defensive wall, orchestrated by Andy Farrell, will take great pride from preventing Scotland from crossing the line but they will face much better opposition.

Referee Wayne Barnes was too liberal in allowing Schmidt's men to slow the pace by often lying in the breakdown but even when Scotland built phases they quickly ran out of ideas and resorted to kicking away possession in hope rather than good planning.

Ireland have Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls and Joey Carbery to come back into selection contention but there may be concerns over the fitness of playmaker Johnny Sexton and blindside Peter O'Mahony, both of whom departed with injury.

But as far as starts go, Ireland will be well pleased, as will their legion of fans both here in Japan and around the world.

Ireland 27 (James Ryan, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Conway tries; Johnny Sexton con, Jack Carty con, Conor Murray pen).
Scotland 3 (Finn Russell pen).
HT: 19-3.