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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK

Ireland: Mean, green spoiling machine

As Kevin Maggs' try against Wales at Wembley shows, Ireland love the big occasion

When the draw for the finals of the Rugby World Cup was made there was one coach smiling a little broader than the others - Ireland's Warren Gatland.

While the pressure will be on England, Wales and Scotland to beat the southern hemisphere teams in their group, Gatland - a New Zealander - knows that if his side lose to Australia in their pool they will be heading for a quarter-final in Dublin against the winners of the French group.

And considering the struggling French only scrapped through against Ireland in the Five Nations by one point, the prospects of the men in green appearing in the semi-finals of the World Cup are very good.

Such an appearance in the last four would probably be accompanied by a national holiday north and south of the border, with Gatland's place in the Irish Hall of Fame assured.

Last eight experts

Ireland are certainly no strangers to the knock-out stage of the tournament, having made the quarter-finals in 1987, 1995 and 1999.

And there will certainly be no more committed group of individuals than this Irish squad, as they look to go one better this time around.

Their World Cup campaign will be led by their pack and in particular the front row of Keith Wood, Paul Wallace and Peter Clohessy.

Injury robbed Clohessy of a place on the Lions tour on 1997, but had he travelled that could have been the Test match front row.

Pack power

Behind those three Ireland are likely to have two of the best line-out jumpers at the tournament in Malcolm O_Kelly and Jeremy Davidson.

And new skipper Dion O'Cuinneagain - raised in South Africa - will be making sure every team they encounter will remember their 80 minutes with the Irish.

In O'Cuinnegain they do not have a southern hemisphere reject looking for any port in a storm.

His father grew up in Dublin and qualified as a dentist before emigrating to Cape Town and in Dion they have a man committed to the cause.

World Cup squad:

Forwards: Dion O'Cuinneagain (capt), Eric Miller, David Corkery, Trevor Brennan, Andy Ward, Kieron Dawson Paul Wallace, Peter Clohessy, Reggie Corrigan, Justin Fitzpatrick, Angus McKeen, Keith Wood, Ross Nesdale, Paddy Johns, Jeremy Davidson, Malcolm O_Kelly, Robert Casey, Dion.

Backs: Jonathan Bell, Brian O_Driscoll, Mike Mullins, David Humphreys, Eric Elwood, Gordon D_Arcy, Conor O_Shea, Justin Bishop, James Topping, Matt Mostyn, Kevin Maggs, Tom Tierney and Brian O_Meara.

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