England were favourites heading into the 2003 World Cup after beating Australia and New Zealand both home and away in tests and being Grand Slam champions earlier that year. the tournament was held in Australia.The hosts eventually would lose the final to the pre-tournament favourites thanks to an extra-time Johnny Wilkinson drop-goal. Ireland were extremely unlucky not to win their group, losing by a point to Australia in the final pool game. Ireland finished second and progressed to the quarters where they were hammered 43-21 by France. Another disappointing quarter-final exit for the boys in green. England played Australia in the final and were victorious.
2007 was the worst performance in a World Cup by an Irish team to date. Although drawn in a tough pool with hosts France and eventual third-placed finishers Argentina, it was an embarrassing campaign. First a 15 point loss to Argentina, then narrow wins over Namibia and Georgia and a hammering from France. South Africa won their second World Cup in 2007 after beating holders England 15-6.
The 2011 World Cup was the first that I remember watching, and Ireland, for most of the tournament, performed brilliantly. They finished top of their pool, after beating Australia 15-6 in an amazing game. From the very first minute, Ireland unleashed hell. Cian Healy was class. Stephen Ferris was immense. Johnny Sexton was unreal. Tommy Bowe was quality, almost running in for a last minute try, but an astounding tackle from winger James O'Connor stopped him. But the difference between this match and the quarter-final against Wales, who were massive underdogs, was huge. Wales were all over Ireland from the word go, and it was the Daffodils who went on to the semi-final. France faced new Zealand in the final, and would have won, had it not been for some horrendous refereeing from Craig Joubert. the match ended 8-7 to the All Blacks with captain Richie McCaw getting his first World Cup medal.
The 2015 World Cup was the most looked forward to in a long time. The holders New Zealand were favourites and those who put money on them did so wisely. Ireland went into this tournament with high hopes, with a winnable group and a potential quarter-final with Argentina, who seemed beatable. Although they won the game, the last match against France cost Ireland dearly. They lost Johnny Sexton to a hamstring injury, Peter O'Mahony to a knee injury and, worst of all, captain Paul O'Connell to a torn hamstring. That match would be the last in his professional career.
Ireland would go on to a quarter-final with Argentina. The Pumas then shocked everyone watching by exposing Ireland out wide and going on to win 43-20. The eventual winners New Zealand deserved to win their 3rd World Cup after defeating Australia 34-17 in Twickenham. However the moment of the tournament was undoubtedly the moment when Japan defeated South Africa 34-32. Unfortunately Japan couldn't get out of the group. England failed to get out of their group, to every other country's delight. It was a brilliant tournament.
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