Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admits his side’s Rugby World Cup starts now after they chalked up a second successive bonus-point victory against tier-two opponents Romania at Wembley yesterday.
Centre Keith Earls touched down twice, equalling Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll’s World Cup tally of seven tries, while wing Tommy Bowe also scored two in front of a new record crowd of 89,267.
Replacement Rob Kearney and flanker Chris Henry completed Ireland’s try-scoring, while second-row Ovidiu Tonita bundled over for Romania’s late consolation.
Ireland have never reached the semi-finals but can seal their place in the last eight by beating Italy at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, before playing France in a potential Pool D top-spot decider.
“You know that if you win three games in your pool then you’re pretty much secure in going through, particularly on the back of a couple of bonus points, so for us it starts in earnest now,” said Schmidt.
“We know that next week is the pivotal week where we can qualify if we beat Italy. The match against France decides who we play in the quarter final if we beat Italy. So there is pressure for us.”