Brian O'Driscoll turns tables on South Africa after Ireland's World Cup draw
Those Rassie Erasmus comments about Ireland being "softies" will, no doubt, resurface in time for the tournament.
For the first time ever, Ireland will face South Africa at a Rugby World Cup. Brian O'Driscoll got a nice bit of trolling in early.
Ireland were drawn in Pool B to face South Africa, Scotland and two other sides (qualifiers from Asia and Europe) in the 2023 World Cup during the Monday afternoon draw in Paris.
The Springboks are the reigning world champions, having defeated England in the 2019 World Cup Final. They are now coached by Jacques Nienaber with former Munster and Ireland fullback Felix Jones on their staff and Rassie Erasmus overseeing the whole operation.
During the 'Chasing the Sun' documentary on that South African World Cup win, Erasmus remarked that Wales were not "softies" like the Irish. Asked about those comments, last month, Ireland back-row CJ Stander replied:
"That is a big statement to make and he put it out there. That’s his prerogative; that’s his thoughts of us. It’s not going to be easy to change his view but lucky we are not playing against them this weekend. We’ll get them at some stage."
During the World Rugby coverage of the draw, hosted by South African broadcaster Elma Smit and former England star Ugo Monye, Brian O'Driscoll dropped by to share his thoughts.
"The World Cup seems to be getting better and better," the former Ireland captain began. "The quality of the pools seems to improve with every four years, particularly when you look at that third tier of teams - Fiji, Scotland, Italy and Argentina." O'Driscoll added:
"South Africa will be delighted though, Elma, with Ireland and Scotland, anyway. It's another World Cup quarter final for them anyway!"
That remark was very much tongue-in-cheek as the Springboks have a mighty World Cup record. They were barred from the 1987 and 1991 tournaments, due to their nation's Apartheid regime, but have won three of seven World Cups since their first crack at it in 1995. They have never failed to get beyond the group stages. Ireland, of course, have never progressed beyond the quarters.
When Monye suggested Ireland's Pool B grouping could be the closest thing to a 'Pool of Death', O'Driscoll replied, "You look at the quality of how Scotland are progressing now under Gregor Townsend. If they can keep some of their key players fit, they're a handful for anyone... we've got a great rivalry against them, and there's no love lost between the teams."
O'Driscoll noted how Ireland have never got beyond the quarter finals in the World Cup, so the pressure builds every four years at the tournament.
"Sometimes when history hasn't gone well," he said, "it hangs over you a little bit, so to get some fresh blood in South Africa, in the pool stages, albeit they are the reigning champions, things could be very different in three years time, or at least Ireland will be hoping for that."
It has yet to be confirmed by World Rugby, too, but Ireland will most likely have to face France or New Zealand in the last eight whether they finish top or runners-up in Pool B. It rarely comes easy.