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09th Sep 2023

Rob Kearney and Alun Wyn Jones praise unsung hero of rampaging Irish win

Rory Fleming

Rob Kearney

While other big-names will grab headlines, this man was crucial to Ireland’s five-star start.

Ireland kick-started their quest for Rugby World Cup glory in perfect fashion on Saturday afternoon, sealing a comprehensive 82-8 victory over Romania, in a result which former Ireland full-back Rob Kearney labelled as “the perfect day.”

Johnny Sexton returned from his six-month absence to deliver a metronomic display at out-half, whilst Munster’s Peter O’Mahony claimed man-of-the-match in a fine two try display.

Bundee Aki and Tadhg Beirne also claimed doubles on the day, but it was the exploits of one unsung hero in particular which Virgin Media’s punditry team of Rob Kearney and Alun Wyn Jones singled out for particular praise in the post-match analysis.

Making just his fifth Test appearance for Ireland, 22-year-old Leinster lock Joe McCarthy offered up a stellar performance far beyond his years, notching a late try too to cap off a memorable day for the Blackrock College alumni.

Rob KearneyJoe McCarthy slides over to score his first ever try for Ireland. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Rob Kearney and Alun Wyn Jones laud McCarthy display:

A former International calibre second-row himself, Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones offered a glowing appraisal of McCarthy’s World Cup debut, on what was just his 16th senior professional game including provincial appearances.

“I thought he was really industrious and I thought he deserved his try. He probably could have a couple more too after he got held up. But his ball handling was good, he was there putting balls out the back and he stopped a maul too.

“So, he was at the coalface of things today and he was doing his stuff at set-piece time too. I think that dynamic of the pack’s back five now, if you chuck him (McCarthy) into the mix, it’s giving Ireland options.

“He was credit to the second-row position today.”

Former Leinster and Ireland full-back Rob Kearney followed suit, declaring that McCarthy possesses all the natural talent to be considered a first-XV starter for Ireland’s mammoth clash against the Springboks in a fortnight’s time.

“He is absolutely a live option. I don’t actually think it’s fair to use the phrase bolter, because he’s earned his selection and he’s played really well for Leinster and Ireland.

“He is right in the mix now and he just brings a different element altogether in the lock.”

McCarthy went on to complete the full 80 minutes, in a show of faith which could result in a rest against Tonga next weekend ahead of Ireland’s do-or-die fixtures against the Boks and Scotland.

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