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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 16:33 GMT
Where do Ireland rank?
A Girvan Dempsey try helps Ireland defeat Argentina 16-7 in an attritional match at Lansdowne Road.
Where do Ireland stand in world rugby?
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A clean sweep in the autumn Tests meant a sixth victory on the trot for the Irish, their best run since the Sixties.
It meant that Ireland defeated two of their rivals in next season's World Cup Pool A following an earlier victory over Australia two weeks ago.
Few players were able to enhance their reputation, but Ireland's try-scoring full-back Girvan Dempsey did not put a foot wrong as the side's engaged in 80 minutes of aerial ping-pong.
Will the Irish continue their winning ways?
As an Irishman, it hurts me to say it but England look to be the strongest in the world at the moment, with the All Blacks, France and Australia (in that order) the best of the rest.
Ireland are getting increasingly close to those four however, and look better than South Africa, Scotland, Wales and Argentina. We are also more than capable of beating any one of the top four on our day. Fifth best in the world - not bad work Mr O'Sullivan!
I would tentatively place Ireland fifth in world rugby behind England, New Zealand, Australia and France and perhaps on a par with South Africa.
They have begun to show real consistency in the past couple of years. However, there have to be doubts about the team's strength in depth, especially amongst the forwards.
Ireland are easily capable of beating any of the top five ranked nations. They have a great coaching staff and some world-class players. However, I think the real test will come when they have to meet top teams in successive matches, as England have just done.
It would also be interesting to see how they coped if they had to come from 10 points down against one of these teams. Very promising though.
Ireland may have won there last six matches, but look who they were against. Except for the Aussies and Pumas, you couldn't say that Romania, Georgia, Russia and Fiji are good teams.
I would have preferred it if Ireland had played SA, NZ and then we would have a clearer picture of where Ireland stand in world rugby .Then again, there is the Six Nations on the way.
If Clive Woodward says France is England's biggest game, it's music to Ireland's ears. England still have to come to Dublin for that last game for what could be the mother of all title deciders
At the moment I think Ireland are in a league of their own. They're not quite the standard of such teams as NZ and France that make up the top level, but they are a lot better than the teams below them.
To be honest, I'm not sure if Ireland could ever be in the top rung, but when you consider that rugby is only the fourth most popular game in a country with a population of 4.2 million, I think we're doing pretty well!
I'd have to rate this Irish team as number four behind England, New Zealand, France and Australia. Though on their day the Irish could beat any of those teams!
Considering rugby is only the fourth most played sport in Ireland the strides made by the Irish team particularly in the past two years must be applauded. The success of the provinces in the Heineken however is perhaps the single overiding factor.
The fact is that the majority of our top players are playing together week in week out and the benefits are clear. Just look at the back interplay of the Leinster boys and the forwards from Munster.
I was very impressed with the Irish performances over the past three weeks of internationals. With victories against Australia, Argentina and Fiji, Eddie O'Sullivan's men are standing up to be counted as contenders for the Six Nations Championship, but also have made strides towards RWC 2003.
Brian O'Driscoll has continued to impress after being named captain in Wood's absence. The young centre truly is a class player and he has shown that he very well could be the leader of the Irish for years to come.
Although the quality of the opposition, with the exception of Australia, has not been that good I feel this Irish team is different from the teams of the past.They are well coached and physically fitter and there is a belief within this squad that they can beat any word-class team. My fellow Irishmen, let's roll.
On what I've seen over the last three weeks there are three clear tiers: Tier 1 - England, France, Australia, NZ; Tier 2 - South Africa, Scotland, Wales, Argentina, Ireland.
Tier 3 - Canada, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Japan, USA, Romania, etc. As with our NPC, teams at the bottom of tiers and the tops of others find it hard to "step up" to the next level.
If England, NZ, S. Africa, France and Australia are the heavyweights of world rugby, then Ireland have to rate in the light heavyweght class, but they are challenging for heavyweight status.
The spirit is there and the commitment of all the Irish players can't be questioned, but you have to think they have a few guys in the 1st XV who are not quite world-class yet. Righto
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