Rugby Gerry Thornley: World Cup warm-ups a necessary evil

Rugby Gerry Thornley: World Cup warm-ups a necessary evil

Rugby I be nuts about extensions, because they are astonishing.

Prior to the inaugural 1987 World Cup, the IRFU in their then wisdom decided that the best preparation was to wrap their front-line players in cotton wool for almost two months. Innocent times.

Far from organising a warm-up match or two, the union decreed that all the players involved in their concluding game of the 1987 Six Nations, a 15-11 win over Wales in Cardiff on April 4th, would not even play for their club sides for the remainder of the season. Whatever else, no front-liner was going to suffer an injury anyway. 

Their next game was the World Cup pool opener against Wales in Wellington on May 25th. Ireland, rusty and lacking sharpness, lost a dull game 13-6, thus condemning them to a quarter-final against the co-hosts Australia in Sydney’s Concord Oval, which they predictably lost 33-15.

That was an unexceptional Welsh side, who were flattered to finish third after beating the deflated Wallabies in the third-place play-off following their dramatic semi-final loss to France. Wales beat an equally unexceptional English side in the quarter-finals before losing 49-6 to New Zealand in the semis.

We’ve come a long way since then, albeit gradually. There were no warm-up games before the 1991 and 1995 tournaments either, while there was only one warm-up game, at home to Argentina, prior to the 1999 tournament.

There were three in 2003, although this was curiously reduced to two games prior to the 2007 World Cup. However, the matches against Italy and Scotland were supplemented by a hastily arranged, not so friendly encounter, against Bayonne.


In light of that, it wasn’t until the 2011 World Cup that Ireland arranged four warm-up

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