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Rugby World Cup: Irish eyes smiling with quarter-final berth

13:00 05 October 2015

Irish fans massively outnumbered Italian fans in Stratford

Irish fans massively outnumbered Italian fans in Stratford

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Competition returns to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Ireland took on Italy at The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic ParkIreland took on Italy at The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Disclaimer: I’m the son of an Irishman, so please forgive any bias!

After the heartache for the hosts 24 hours earlier, there was always a fear that the Italians could upset the odds with victory at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

Fans were cheered into the ground by the sound of musicFans were cheered into the ground by the sound of music

I was lucky enough to have a ticket for the game and leaving the station at Stratford, it seemed as though I was in the 33rd county of Ireland with a sea of green carrying fans to the ground.

Once inside, the sea became a wall and if the Italian players didn’t know it was a partisan crowd then, they did by the end of the anthems with probably 50,000 belting out Ireland’s Call.

Italy faced a sea of green at The Stadiium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic ParkItaly faced a sea of green at The Stadiium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

I was sat next to my brother, whose knowledge of rugby is limited at best, who put a bet on Ireland to win by 36 points and so was pleased when Jonny Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty.

But as the game went on, Ireland struggled to pull away from the Italians and you could sense the growing fear inside the stadium. Screams of “Come on Ireland” were getting tenser by the second.

Josh Furno looked to have dotted down in the corner for Italy, but a lack of celebration from the lock told Ireland fans he had been tackled into touch.

Thankfully Sexton continued to impress from the tee and Keith Earls’ first half try, after which you could see my girlfiend celebrating on TV, proved the difference.

The game, though, was only half the battle with the walk back to the Tube proving devilishly difficult - West Ham fans will have bags of fun getting home next year!

As for England, well I think the least said about it, the better. Credit must go to Australia, though, and especially Bernard Foley who ran fantastic lines for both of his tries.

At least England’s early exit takes the pressure of Japan in four years!

Talking of the Brave Blossoms, they picked up another win over Samoa to all but book their place at the next tournament. Sadly for Eddie Jones’ men, there was no bonus point again which could come back to haunt them.

There is a distinct possibility Japan can win three games and still not make the quarter-finals, which would be terrible.

But not as terrible as the hosts leaving the party early, with many wondering will interest in the tournament now wane.

My biggest concern - what games will ITV wheel Sir Clive and Jonny out for now given they’ve worked exclusively on England matches?

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