What the Irish newspapers are saying on Wednesday about the Test against the Springboks and the 2023 World Cup bid.
Predictably, the Irish Times, Irish Independent, and Irish Examiner have focused on IRFU chief executive Philip Browne’s attack on South Africa’s 2023 World Cup bid.
‘Question time’ is the headline on the front of the Examiner’s Sport section. Inside, the article is titled ‘Browne leads World Cup counter-attack’.
‘There is no doubt that the gloves are well and truly off in a diplomatic sense as the Ireland Oversight Board attempts to make up for some lost ground before the final decision is make on 15 November,’ writes Brendan O’Brien.
In the same paper, columnist Donal Lenihan says Ireland are ‘Battling the Boks on two fronts’.
‘Ireland’s World Cup goose looks well and truly cooked but if, by some miracle, they emerge on top of the secret ballot that ultimately decides who gets to host the 2023 event, you can be sure the South Africans won’t take that decision lying down,’ he says.
‘At least the chances of an Irish victory on the field of play this Saturday look a lot brighter. Ireland are stronger now than they were on that 2016 tour [to South Africa], especially with Johnny Sexton back calling the shots at flyhalf. The big question hanging over the Springboks is whether that last performance against the All Blacks was a one-off or is this comparatively inexperienced group of players capable of kicking on from here. We are about to find out.
‘Right now, the more important battle for supremacy over the Springboks is taking place in the administrative corridors of power as the Irish bid team burns ears all over the world,’ he adds. ‘The result of that clash is likely to leave far more of a sour taste than anything that happens on the pitch Saturday evening.’
‘IRFU highlights misgivings over report in letter to World Rugby’ is the headline in the Irish Times.
‘The content and tone of the latest missive from the IRFU will certainly add a feisty backdrop to Saturday’s meeting between the two countries,’ writes Gerry Thornley. ‘And with any future bids in mind, this can only sour Ireland’s off-field relations not only with the SA Rugby union but with World Rugby as well.’
‘IRFU on the offensive as World Cup race heats up’ barks the headline in the Irish Independent.
‘One wonders if World Rugby regret their move towards what they billed as a more transparent process for the 2023 World Cup vote,’ writes Ruaidhri O’Connor. ’A vote against South Africa would be seen as a significant slap in the face for World Rugby, but with a week to go [until the official announcement] the gloves are off.’
In terms of the coming Test between the Boks and Ireland, the Examiner has run a piece titled: ‘Proudfoot continues Bok charm offensive’. The article notes how Allister Coetzee and Matt Proudfoot have talked up the Ireland coach and players since arriving in Dublin.
A few of the papers have run Conor Murray’s defence of New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki, who is set to feature against the Boks on Saturday. Former international player Neil Francis said on a local TV show that the decision to include Aki was ‘morally wrong’.
Many in the country share the view that only Ireland-born players should be selected for the national team. Murray, however, said: ‘We’re lucky to have Bundee in the squad and it’s unfair for someone to receive heat off the media when he hasn’t done anything wrong.’
An image of Aki is featured in today’s edition of the Times. In his column, Gordon D’Arcy says: ‘Creative spontaneity will beat the Springboks’.
‘Aki should be a central figure this week,’ the former Ireland centre writes. ‘He gives Ireland a midfield option we have not had since Kevin Maggs and Rob Henderson.
‘Aki brings an additional creative spark. He is far from poetry in motion, but his ability to play on the gainline (holding numerous defenders in the process) gives Joe Schmidt’s Ireland a new dimension.
‘Ireland, and our flood of returning Lions, should beat South Africa.’
Compiled by Jon Cardinelli in Dublin