Christy Moore played a surprise set to the Irish squad ahead of their final pool game at home to Wales. The set from the music legend included a cover of ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash.
A powerful tune from a man who could stir emotion with just his voice and a guitar. Moore, a former prop and regular guest to the Ireland setup himself, undoubtedly influenced the players with his tone, passion and emotion.
A 19-10 win over Wales later that week cemented Ireland as the world number one ranked side heading into the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Ireland rounded off their RWC warm up games on a high with a dominant display at Aviva Stadium that saw vital players like Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray display glimpses of their best stuff since 2018.
Others like CJ Stander, Josh Van Der Flier and Rob Kearney banish the demons from the defeat to England just three weeks ago.
Saturday gave both Joe Schmidt and Rory Best the home farewell they deserved. After all, they are the most successful Head coach/captain pair in Irish rugby history.
A first victory on South African soil, beating the All Blacks in Chicago and at home, Test series winners in Australia, two Six Nations titles back to back and that memorable Grand Slam last year.
While Ireland isn’t the wounded animal people might have thought they were after the England thrashing, they have certainly used the hurt from that defeat to move forward and put themselves in the best possible position heading to Japan.
If the 2015 quarter final loss to Argentina teaches us anything ahead of this year’s tournament, it’s that player number 24 to 31 will be of great importance to Joe Schmidt in the latter stages. Especially if we face South Africa in the quarter final stage as forecast.
Like a lot of major tournaments across sport there is a sense of finality about them. In golf, it’s the Sunday back nine at the Open Championship, while in Snooker it’s the final evening session at the Crucible Theatre.
Rugby’s “claret jug” is always overdue because of the long four-year cycle in between each edition of their World Cup. It’s special.
Schmidt, Best and a couple of players will land in Japan for one last major tournament in what will be a culmination of all the work that’s been done since bowing out of the previous competition in 2015.
It’s important to take stock of some of the greatest achievements in Irish rugby history, especially the glutton of highs since 2015. With the ongoing sense of finality that stirs for many on the outside looking in at Irish Rugby right now.
Joe Schmidt is about to play his final back nine, and that will be the time for his players to start making things happen on the field. The curtains to RWC 2019 are drawn and the audience are beginning to take their seats. It’s almost showtime.