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Rugby World Cup: This is Ireland’s best chance of success, says new Hendon captain

07:45 19 September 2015

Johnny Sexton will be a key man for Ireland

Johnny Sexton will be a key man for Ireland

PA Archive/PA Images

Hendon Rugby Club’s new captain Cian Hynes believes his Irish compatriots can justify their top-three place in the world rankings by reaching the semi-finals for the first time – and he feels they could go further.

Hendon's new captain Cian Hynes. Pic: Paolo MinoliHendon's new captain Cian Hynes. Pic: Paolo Minoli

The men from the Emerald Isle have never made it to the final four but there is a great sense of anticipation and expectation as they prepare to kick off their tournament against Canada today (Saturday), having won the Six Nations for the last two years in a row.

Fly-half Hynes, 22, who lives in Stanmore, has taken the armband from his countryman Ger O’Donoghue at a club that some have nicknamed ‘Hendon Irish’.

He said: “If you look back through the years with Ireland, we’ve always had great players. But if you’re talking about the overall strength of the squad, until we slipped up against Wales recently [in a warm-up fixture] we were ranked No2 in the world for the first time ever, so if we can bring that to the World Cup…

“On any day any team can beat anyone, especially being in the northern hemisphere, so we have half a chance.

“I think at this time that No2 ranking is just about right. You could argue it either way – you could argue we’re second or that we’re third [Australia are officially second]. But if you look at the last couple of years, Ireland are back-to-back Six Nations champions and we’ve beaten South Africa and we’ve beaten Australia.

“South Africa have had a bad run of losses, Australia have had a bad run of losses. Bar New Zealand, who have been comprehensively the best team for a while, you could argue the case for Ireland and Australia, but I think on form I reckon Ireland are just about No2.

“Would anything less than the semi-finals be disappointing? I’d say that all right. The mood in the country is that this has to be seen as the best chance we’ve had at a World Cup, especially with it being in England, right across the doorstep.”

Ireland will be favourites to top their group, given they beat both of their biggest rivals – France and Italy – en route to winning the Six Nations in March.

And Hynes says it is crucial they do so to swerve facing the highly-fancied New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

“In terms of the group in itself, as long as we can avoid New Zealand, I think we’ve pretty much had the measure of all of the other southern hemisphere boys at this stage,” he said.

“We have to avoid New Zealand. We might just be able to pip them in a final or something like that, but as of yet we haven’t been able to get near them.

“The way it’s looking right now, it looks like New Zealand are going to run through their group [Pool C], so fingers crossed we can get through ours. It’s looking like we could be playing Argentina in the next round.

“Winning the Six Nations make us favourites in our group but when you’re talking about France you’re talking about a mercurial side. They have their good days and their bad days and they look like they could be coming back into a bit of form.

“They beat England comprehensively recently in Paris so the signs are they’re improving – and that’s a worrying sign if you’re an Irishman.

“Italy are a strange one. They have the best number eight in the world effectively, [Sergio] Parisse. He has been the best for a long time and they have their good days - they beat Scotland at Murrayfield [22-19 in this year’s Six Nations].

“But at the same time they were at home against Wales in the last game and ended up getting absolutely trounced [61-20], so it’s hard to know what team we’re going to be facing.”

Hynes feels Ireland have quality throughout their 31-man squad, but he is hoping for big things from his fellow fly-half Johnny Sexton in particular.

“It’s the squad I would have expected,” he said. “There are a couple of names I’m disappointed to see missing. One of our main players, when we won one of our recent Six Nations, was Andrew Trimble [Ireland’s 2014 player of the year].

“Of course unfortunately he’s been piling up injuries, but it would have been a bit of a dream battery for us to have Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and then Rob Carney at full-back. That would have been the dream but we’ll see how we get on without him.

“I think everyone’s going to stick their hand up but if I was to pick one player out it would be Johnny Sexton at No10. If we are to have any chance of winning the tournament we need him at his best.

“He’s been touted as one of the best 10s in the northern hemisphere, if not the world, at the moment and everything Ireland have done well in the last couple of years has gone through Johnny Sexton, so in my opinion he’s our main man.”

Hynes is looking forward to watching the tournament with his clubmates at Hendon, whose ground is next to Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium in NW4 - and he expects the Irish to be strongly represented in the clubhouse and in the surrounding area.

“With the World Cup, like the Six Nations and all the big tournaments, everyone kind of gathers round it,” he said. “We’ve got quite a few Welsh lads, English lads, Irish lads and a couple of Aussies so the craic and the banter is quite good, especially on matchdays when everyone supports their own side.

“Hendon as a club have almost been nicknamed ‘Hendon Irish’ by a few, including myself, and when you’re talking about the areas for the Irish – with Irish pubs and things like that - they’re in close proximity to the club. The Claddagh Ring and The Quays are nearby and these are a couple of the biggest Irish pubs in London.”

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