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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Form guide: Ireland
Toutai Kefu of Australia is brought crashing down by the Irish defenders
Ireland rarely got the better of the Wallabies in the summer
Ireland have gone from a horribly inconsistent side to genuine contenders for the business end of the World Cup.

They started a 10-match unbeaten run with victory over Romania in September 2002, a haul of wins that included a memorable victory over Australia.

That run came to an end in the Six Nations Grand Slam decider when England put on a ruthless performance to take the title with a 42-6 win.

Since then, Ireland have failed to match the high standards they set in winning 10 Tests on the trot.

They looked uninspiring against Tonga and were very much second best to Australia.

But coach Eddie O'Sullivan will get his players to recall their previous win over the Wallabies as well as the start to the Six Nations for inspiration.

Ireland had initially been ruled out by many as serious contenders for the Six Nations but that changed with their opening game - a 36-6 victory over Scotland.

It was their first win at Murrayfield since 1985 and they rarely looked troubled.

David Humphreys scored 26 points for the visitors including one of three tries. Geordan Murphy and Denis Hickie crossed for the others.

FORM IN 2003

Their victory over Italy was expected, but it was against France that they truly came to the fore as potential championship winners.

In a hard-fought contest at Lansdowne Road, Humphreys managed four penalties, Murphy slotted over a sweetly taken drop-goal and the Irish defence held firm to produce arguably their best performance of 2003.

Ireland pulled off an even more dramatic result against Wales when replacement fly-half Ronan O'Gara kept Ireland's Grand Slam hopes alive with a last-ditch drop-goal.

With massive publicity leading up to their final game much was expected of Ireland in the Grand Slam decider but simply put, they were brushed aside by England.

Still rattled by the result, they failed to produce a second successive victory against Australia, who dealt them a rampant six-try hammering in Perth.

Ireland got back to winning ways against Pacific Islanders Tonga and Samoa.

They scored 80 points in the two games but did little against either side to show they will cause a major stir at the World Cup.

And the Irish took their run of wins to five with a hat-trick of victories over European opponents.

Wales were easily beaten with five tries from the forwards on a day when Ireland welcomed captain Keith Wood back into the fold.

Against Italy it was the turn of the backs, Hickie in particular, as the winger ran in four tries in a 61-6 win.

And Ireland took their tally of tries to 17 in three matches with a 29-10 win in Scotland.

Another victory at Murrayfield should have been cause for celebration, but it proved a pyrrhic victory with full back Murphy breaking his leg.

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