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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Ireland find Cup consistency
Making it past the pool stage at the last four World Cups involved more skill than luck for the Irish.

Ireland, much to the annoyance of former major force Wales, have become the biggest rivals of England and France in the Six Nations (formerly Five Nations) over the last decade or so.

Ironically, Wales handed Ireland their first ever World Cup defeat in the opening pool match of 1987.

Ireland v USA 1999
Played 16 - W:9 L:7
1987: Quarter-finals
1991: Quarter- finals
1995: Quarter-finals
1999: Quarter-finals play-offs
The 13-6 loss to the Welsh gave them the kick up the backside they needed.

Comfortable wins against Canada and Tonga followed as they progressed to the quarter-finals and a meeting with Australia.

Unfortunately for Ireland, Wallabies' fly-half Michael Lynagh remembered his kicking boots, picking up an individual tally of 17 points as his team romped to a 33-15 win.

Four years later, Ireland faced Australia once again at the quarter-final stage, but this time around it was far from a one-sided affair.

The match, which to this day is still billed as one of the great World Cup games, had a climax to savour.

With six minutes remaining, Ireland took a three-point lead when flanker Gordon Hamilton went over and Ralph Keyes followed up with a conversion.

But Lynagh, who caused so much heartache in 1987 did the same again, this time going over with just seconds left.

A big win over Japan and a narrow 24-23 victory over the Welsh secured a third successive spot in the last eight, in 1995.

This time the French awaited them.

Ireland relied much on the boot of Eric Elwood who kicked all 12 of their points.

France on the other hand exposed weaknesses in the Irish defence, with Thierry Lacroix kicking 26 points while captain Philippe Saint-Andre and Emile Ntamack ran over to secure a 36-12 victory.

At the last World Cup, wins over Romania and the United States put them in a good position to reach the quarter- finals.

And they were expected to do so with Argentina awaiting them in the play-off match.

But the Pumas went up a gear while Ireland seem to go down one.

The 72nd-minute try from Pumas winger Diego Alabanese and a Gonzalo Quesada penalty handed Ireland a 28-24 defeat.

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