Heroic Ireland show World Cup credentials by defeating Springboks in epic encounter

Bundee Aki and Hugo Keenan of Ireland celebrate
Bundee Aki and Hugo Keenan of Ireland celebrate their famous win - Getty Images/Laurence Griffiths

It was a game of such ferocious intensity, drama, and heroism from both sides that it bore all the hallmarks of a World Cup final. It may yet turn out to be a dry run of the real thing at the end of next month.

But for now, it is Ireland who underscored their status as favourites for the first time to lift the Webb Ellis trophy with a stunning victory over the defending champions.

It was at times unbearably fraught, with the result on a knife edge right until the last play when Ireland were forced to defend a 15-man Springbok driving maul edging towards their line.

But Andy Farrell’s side were worthy victors, overcoming their first-half line-out frailties to defuse the Springbok ‘Bomb squad’ in the second half with arguably their finest ever performance.

This was a 16th successive victory for Ireland, who have lost just two of their last 30 Tests. They may have opened their World Cup campaign in a relatively low-key manner. But if France have stolen the headlines and limelight of the opening rounds of the tournament, Farrell’s side have left no-one in any doubt now of their credibility as the number one-ranked side.

Ireland are now on course to qualify for the quarter-finals as pool winners, where they are likely to face New Zealand, another gargantuan task ahead.

But Farrell’s men will now set their sights on making history by becoming the first Ireland side to reach the last-four, even if they are now likely to face New Zealand.

The performance also burst the hype generated by the Springboks’ decision to opt for seven forwards on their bench. Instead it was their lack of a front-line goal-kicker, and a front-line hooker on the bench, that proved decisive on the night.

Suitably, it was a penalty won by Ireland at a scrum that allowed Jack Crowley to land the decisive penalty just three minutes from time, after South Africa had twice failed to reclaim the lead with wayward kicks by Manie Libbok and Faf de Klerk during a roller-coaster second-half.

Libbok is a wonderful footballer, and brings an extra attacking edge to the South African backline, but the World Cup brings its own pressures, and it is almost impossible to win the tournament without a reliable kicker.

Ireland’s heroes were across the pitch, with their forward putting in a remarkable shift, lead by Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Furlong, while Bundee Aki once again gave his side a critical attacking beachhead in the midfield.

Jasper Wiese of South Africa and Andrew Porter of Ireland tussle
Jasper Wiese and Andrew Porter get to grips with each other - Sportsfile via Getty Images)/Ramsey Cardy

Ireland had been under the cosh in the first quarter, but critically limited South Africa to a Libbok penalty before a rousing end to the half climaxed with a try by Mack Hansen. South Africa hit back with a try by Cheslin Kolbe as the tension mounted during a frantic second half, but after Johnny Sexton had landed a penalty from an Ireland scrum penalty, Farrell’s men would not look back.

Sexton would later describe it as the most exhilarating atmosphere he had experienced with an Ireland team away from home, claiming it felt like there were at least 60,000 green-clad supporters in the Stade de France, which gave his side the emotional edge.

The key for Ireland now will be to find a way to ensure they push on from this high, bottle the physical and emotional intensity that enable to dominate the breakdown and hold their own at scrum time.

Yet it was South Africa who had laid down the first marker, like a heavyweight boxer charging out of their corner, smashing into Ireland’s ruck and assumes early and utter dominance over Ireland’s line-out, denying Andy Farrell’s side any attacking platform.

It was a huge psychological blow. Despite dominating territory in the opening quarter, Ireland could not make any of their pressure count, losing their first four line-outs and five of their first eight in the opening quarter.

The world champions doubled down on this pressure by launching a tag-team of their forwards to disrupt the tackle situation, determined to make Ireland’s ball slow and messy to deny Sexton any front foot ball.

Libbok landed a penalty yet somehow, under overwhelming pressure, Ireland began to seize the momentum back as their line-out possession became more secure and they began to put together their attacking shapes.

And the breakthrough finally came when Ireland opted to maul a line-out, with van der Flier and O’Mahony driving for the line when the Sexton lopping and dummying to a metre of the Springbok line. Eventually Lowe found Hansen in space to touch down for the opening try and remarkably give Ireland the edge at the interval.

Ireland would have been braced for an explosive start to the second half and so it came. De Klerk had a shot at a long range penalty, which rebounded off the post. South Africa reclaimed the possession but Lowe’s defence was superb as he held up Etzebeth with a choke tackle to force the turnover.

The first section of the the ‘Bomb squad’ then appeared and had an immediate impact, forcing Andrew Porter to concede a scrum penalty. South Africa played on with De Allende taking the ball to the line before Libbok threw a long pass to put Kolbe over for a try to put South Africa in front again.

'South Africa can still win the World Cup - look at 2019'
'South Africa can still win the World Cup - look at 2019'

Yet the rollercoaster narrative continued, with Ireland responding with their best spell of pressure of the game to reclaim the lead with a scrum penalty of their own, as Malherbe over-extended.

South Africa underloaded all seven forwards off their bench but having weathered an incredible period of South African pressure with some defensive heroics to repel a series of line-breaks, the game finally swung decisively in Ireland’s favour.

Jack Crowley, on for Sexton, attempted a drop-goal although it was touched in-flight by De Allende, Willemse allowed the ball to roll dead. From the five-metre scrum, South Africa were penalised for pushing early and Crowley extended the lead to five points.

There was still time for one last piece of drama, with Libbok kicking a penalty to the corner and the Springboks launching one final driving maul. But Ireland stood firm, Ireland stood tall.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 3-0 Libbok pen; 3-5 Hansen try; 3-7 Sexton con; 8-7 Kolbe try; 8-10 Sexton pen, 8-13 Crowley pen;

South Africa: D Willemse, K-L Arendse, J Kriel, D de Allende, C Kolbe, M Libbok, F de Klerk (C Reinach 75); S Kitshoff (O Nche 48), B Mbonambi (D Fourie 64), F Malherbe (T Nayakane 62), E Etzebeth (J Kleyn 48), F Mostert (RG Snyman 48), S Kolisi (M van Staden 53), P-S du Toit, J Wiese (K Smith 48)

Ireland: H Keenan, M Hansen, G Ringrose (R Henshaw 64), B Aki, J Lowe, J Sexton (J Crowley 72), J Gibson-Park (C Murray 66); A Porter (D Kilcoyne 75), R Kelleher (D Sheehan 53), T Furlong (F Bealham 64), T Beirne, J Ryan (I Henderson 53), P O’Mahony (R Baird 64), J van der Flier, C Doris

Att: 78,542

Referee: B O’Keeffe (New Zealand)


10:34 PM BST

Goodnight!

Thanks for joining us for that titanic Test match.

More of the same tomorrow? Oh, go on then.

I’ll be back for coverage of Scotland against Tonga and Australia v Wales.

But, for now, goodnight.


10:31 PM BST

Sexton reacts


10:30 PM BST

World Cup final

If both get through their final group matches and defeat the two southern-hemisphere giants in the quarter-finals, then all roads would point to a France v Ireland final.

What an occasion that would be, with the World Cup guaranteed a new winner.


10:23 PM BST

Hansen swearing again


10:17 PM BST

Mack Hansen, entertainingly, speaks to ITV

It was pretty much like Grand Slam on steroids out there. Crazy.

80,000? It seems like there was f---- 800,000 out there... oh damn! Sorry I swore.

It was incredible and we needed every one of them.

The finish for the try was a bit closer for comfort than I would have liked. I was making it easy for Johnny - he’s an old man now.

To get a win over the reigning champions is as good as it can get. It gives us a lot of strength and belief but we’ve got a really tough week against a great Scotland team.


10:14 PM BST

Some run


10:09 PM BST

Our columnist speaks


10:08 PM BST

Manie Libbok to ITV

It was one hell of a game. Ireland brought it to us. I’m just ptorud of the boys for sticking in there. We were so unlucky.

In a tight game like this you have to take your points. You have to convert. But we didn’t manage to get it right. We go back to the drawing board on Monday.

They are a class outfit and they have quality players all over the park. A good team.


10:02 PM BST

Dispatch from a raucous Saint-Denis

Irish supporters making a hell of a noise here. PA has put on The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’, letting the Irish fans sing the chorus on their own: “In your head, in your head, zombie, zombie...”


10:01 PM BST

That ending


10:00 PM BST

Bundee Aki to ITV

Lost for words. These Irish fans are incredible - honestly. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. It’s a complete joke. It’s only going to get bigger and crazier from here on in.

South Africa are outstanding, they’re not world champions for no reason. They gave it to us from beginning to end. We’ll probably see them again in a bigger game with a lot more pressure. We’ll regroup this week and go again against Scotland.

We knew we had to be a lot better in all areas tonight. We knew South Africa were going to give it to us and they did. The put us under an immense amount of pressure - but the belief in our group is outstanding.


09:57 PM BST

On that evidence...

Can South Africa realistically expect to win the World Cup without a top-class goal-kicker and a proper reserve hooker?

That might be harsh on Deon Fourie, who threw well to the tail at the end, but his first throw was squint.

Is Pollard fit enough and in good enough nick to displace Libbok, who is playing beautifully with the ball in his hands?


09:54 PM BST

Mouth-watering

We always assumed this - apologies to Scotland, who could still have a say - but the fact it is approaching reality is just delicious.


09:52 PM BST

Player of the match

It’s Bundee Aki. Totally deserved. Mammoth.

Bundee Aki carries
Bundee Aki carries

09:50 PM BST

What. A. Match.

I’m shattered after just watching that. How do the players feel?

Zombie by the Cranberries rings around the Stade de France.

I can’t imagine there’ll be much shut-eye in Paris tonight.


09:49 PM BST

Full-time: RSA 8 IRE 13

Du Toit rises at the tail and takes it.

This South African maul is moving... it goes to ground legally.

O’Keeffe asks where the ball is. Is it there?

It is! But not quickly enough!

That’s it! Ireland win!


09:47 PM BST

79 mins: RSA 8 IRE 13

Aki with the turnover as Kolbe shimmied down the left!

Lowe clears up to Arendse in his own 22.

The clock is ticking - and there’s a hint of an overlap for South Africa.

Penalty to the Springboks on halfway for off feet!

Libbok gives his side a line-out inside the Irish 22.

This is it!


09:45 PM BST

PEN CROWLEY: RSA 8 IRE 13

Is that it?

A try for South Africa draws it; a converted one wins it.

There are three minutes to play.


09:44 PM BST

76 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Penalty to Ireland!

South Africa are unstable, pushing early at the scrum, and leave O’Keeffe no option.

Crowley will have a shot to surely win it.


09:42 PM BST

75 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Crowley has a go at the drop-goal... and it’s touched in-flight by De Allende.

Willemse hasn’t realised and allows the ball to roll dead! That means it’s a five-metre scrum to Ireland.

This is could be the ball game.

Kilcoyne is on for Porter; Reinach for De Klerk.


09:41 PM BST

75 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Arendse pierces the Irish defence first phase!

He finds Van Staden in support, the flanker taking the Springboks up to the Irish 10-metre line.

But Ireland counter-ruck! And Beirne boots up field to the South African line!

Ireland counter again and come up with the ball after Kriel swept up the mess.

Crowley’s in the pocket..


09:38 PM BST

73 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Free-kick to Ireland as South Africa engage early.

Lowe clears down field, finding touch inside the South Africa half.

A missile.

Crowley is on for Sexton - what a shift from the Ireland captain.


09:37 PM BST

72 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Fourie, South Africa’s make-shift hooker, throws not straight!

Ireland survive!

Their reward? A five-metre scrum.

Danger has not been averted yet.


09:36 PM BST

71 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

South Africa go through the gears at the maul, with penalty advantage owing to Beirne’s side entry.

Nothing comes, it’s a penalty - and the Springboks go to the corner...

This is big!


09:35 PM BST

70 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Ireland clear but Willemse comes roaring back.

Libbok puts Snyman on the charge, up to the Irish 22. South Africa recycle but Du Toit can’t keep hold of the pass.

The Springboks get away with one, though - the ball touched an Irish hand in the tackle and the Springboks will throw in on the Ireland 22.


09:32 PM BST

69 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Murray with the turnover!

Lowe tries to clear but De Klerk charges down into touch.

Ireland will restart with a line-out on their own 22.


09:31 PM BST

68 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Willemse puts the Garryowen up and Lowe can’t keep hold of it outside the Irish 22.

It’s a knock-on and, worryingly for Ireland, a scrum to South Africa in an eminently kickable position.


09:30 PM BST

66 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Ireland are caught offside and De Klerk has another long-range crack at goal.

It’s another miss! These are adding up for the Springboks now.

Murray is on for Ireland, too, as Gibson-Park departs.


09:29 PM BST

65 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

Goal-kicking has never been Libbok’s strength... and he misses. How crucial could that be?

Henshaw, Baird and Bealham are all on for Ireland. Fourie for the Springboks.

Those fresh legs were required.


09:27 PM BST

64 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

The bomb squad is almost fully on now - and it’s turning the screw.

A fearsome scrum from Nche and Nyakane splinters Ireland - on their own ball, too!

South Africa will go for posts on the Ireland 10-metre line.


09:24 PM BST

62 mins: RSA 8 IRE 10

There’s a breakdown in communications in the South African midfield.

Willemse does not read De Allende’s switch - or the latter didn’t call it early enough - and the pass is knocked on.

A small, defensive win for Ireland. They will restart with a scrum just inside their own half.

Nyakane is on for Malherbe.


09:22 PM BST

PEN SEXTON: RSA 8 IRE 10

The Ireland skipper does not miss those.

It goes from a one-point game to South Africa to a two-point game to Ireland.


09:21 PM BST

58 mins: RSA 8 IRE 7

Penalty to Ireland! What a moment!

Malherbe penalised for over-extending and Sexton, bang in front, points at the sticks.

On the replay, it’s a fine call from O’Keeffe. The Springbok tighthead, one of the great scrummagers, go so long-legged! Uncharacteristic.


09:20 PM BST

58 mins: RSA 8 IRE 7

Penalty Ireland, with Snyman offside in attempting to charge down Gibson-Park.

Irish line-out inside the South African half. Doris and Lowe get the leg-drive going but Smith’s counter-ruck forces a knock-on at the base.

South Africa scrum, just outside their own 22.


09:18 PM BST

Kolbe's score


09:17 PM BST

55 mins: RSA 8 IRE 7

Ankle-breaking agility from Willemse takes him outside Ringrose just inside his own half, before putting boot to ball and finding touch.

Ireland throw in inside their own half.


09:15 PM BST

MISSED CON LIBBOK: RSA 8 IRE 7

It was tough - and we have a one-point game.

Van Staden is on for South Africa; Sheehan and Henderson for Ireland.


09:14 PM BST

TRY KOLBE: RSA 8 IRE 7

The Springboks take the lead!

How will Ireland respond to the arrival of the South African bomb squad?

Porter collapses the scrum but, with penalty advantage, South Africa play.

De Allende takes it to the line, pulls back at the last moment to Libbok, who shoots a pearl of a pass out to Kolbe, who saunters over out wide.


09:11 PM BST

49 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Monster first scrum from the South African bench.

Doris is sent backwards as he picks from the base and Aki seals off.

Penalty to South Africa - and they opt to scrum.

This is the subplot we were waiting for...


09:10 PM BST

48 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

De Klerk hits the post!

But the Springbok chase is wonderful and they recover possession.

Lowe in defence - again - is absolutely phenomenal. The wing gets underneath Etzebeth to hold him up and allow his back row to complete a choke tackle.

We’ll restart with an Irish scrum on their own 22.

Here comes the bomb squad, too - it’s not quite all seven, but it’s Nche, Kleyn, Snyman, and Smith.


09:08 PM BST

47 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

That’s about the first poor Irish phase attack of the game.

Aki is reeling first phase, so makes little ground. Kolisi scrags Gibson-Park and, without the nine, Kelleher feeds Ryan but he’s on his own and Wiese swoops to win the holding-on penalty.

De Klerk is going to have a long-range shot at goal - he does have this in his locker. From halfway.


09:06 PM BST

45 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Hansen returns the South African clearance with interest - although there’s a hint of blocking - before Sexton, down the blindside, threads a beauty of a kick into touch inside the South African 22.

O’Mahony makes a mess of the Springboks’ line-out and now it is Ireland who throw inside the 22.

But it’s a Mostert steal at the tail and South Africa clear to halfway through De Klerk.

Ireland line-out.


09:04 PM BST

43 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Intelligent rugby from Ireland.

South Africa think Aki is going to try and punch a hole, but he tips to Ringrose.

Then, Gibson-Park switches direction with a diagonal kick that beats De Klerk and the Springbok back three.

South Africa will throw in inside their own 22.


09:02 PM BST

Second half

Libbok gets us back under way.

South Africa immediately on the attack inside the Ireland 22 but Etzebeth won the ball illegally.

Penalty Ireland - Sexton clears to touch inside the Springbok half.


09:01 PM BST

France

You cannot imagine that, should these two progress from this pool, that Les Bleus fancy taking on one of these teams... in the quarter-finals...

Maybe, too, without Antoine Dupont.


08:59 PM BST

Which way is it going?

Let me know in the comments!

This is the last* time I’ll mention I went Ireland by four - which just currently happens to be the margin.

*unless Ireland do actually win by four - if so, you’ll never hear the end of it.


08:54 PM BST

Ireland's try


08:53 PM BST

Our columnist speaks


08:52 PM BST

Dispatch from the Stade de France

Shades of ‘physio’ Jacques Nienaber at RWC 2019, with one of the South African medics patrolling the touchline on our side, constantly giving instructions to the Springboks.


08:51 PM BST

It's been feisty!

Jasper Wiese (L) and Andrew Porter (R) have a disagreement in the first half
Jasper Wiese (L) and Andrew Porter (R) have a disagreement in the first half - GETTY IMAGES

08:49 PM BST

A word for Monsieur O'Keeffe

The Kiwi referee has had an excellent half.

How refreshing, this tournament, to not be talking about the referee - and the sublime contest instead.

Ok, maybe I am talking about the referee - but it’s nothing but positive!


08:47 PM BST

Half-time: RSA 3 IRE 7

Ireland knock on after a couple of phases, with more stoic Springbok defence, and that’s that.

And... breathe. A thrilling first half, with just the one try - through Ireland wing Mack Hansen - leaves the match tantalisingly poised at the break.

What a game it has been. Two terrific teams going tooth and nail.


08:45 PM BST

40 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Ireland are building something here.

South Africa go on the attack, Arendse at first receiver from the scrum, and Libbok flings a suspiciously forward long pass out to Kolbe. Hansen drags him down, and when the ball is recycled Van der Flier wins the holding-on penalty.

Ireland will throw in on the South African 22 with the clock in the red.


08:43 PM BST

37 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Ireland opt for the aerial route and Arendse spills! Willemse tidies but the Springboks have to do it from their own 22.

Libbok clears, keeping the ball in play. Gibson-Park fires a monster pass out to Lowe in space, from the base of the ruck.

The wing chips on, but there’s too much on it, with the ball trickling dead.

South Africa will put into the scrum just inside their own half - wide on the right.


08:42 PM BST

37 mins: RSA 3 IRE 7

Ireland make a bit of a hash of the restart but they secure their line-out ball on their own line and, with Doris carrying athletically, Du Toit is penalised for not rolling away.

Ireland to throw in just short of halfway.


08:40 PM BST

CON SEXTON: RSA 3 IRE 7

A stunning strike from the Ireland captain, from the wrong side, to extend his side’s lead.


08:39 PM BST

TRY HANSEN: RSA 3 IRE 5

The opening try!

Ireland keep it tight, but opt against the maul. Van der Flier has two gos, O’Mahony, too.

Sexton loops, dummies, and gets to within a metre.

Lowe spots Hansen in space and when the ball is recycled the wing crosses - but leaves it late to dot down. He was close to the dead-ball area!


08:36 PM BST

31 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

This has been enthralling so far - gripping. Who says you need tries to have fun?

Aki does! The centre streaks through, first phase, charging from his own half to the Springbok 22.

Sexton finds Lowe with the inside ball as Ireland look to settle into their slick phase-play.

But the South African defence is mighty again - Van der Flier is hammered by Arendse.

Aki is away down the left, but Mostert is penalised for not releasing the centre on the floor.

Ireland go back to the corner...


08:32 PM BST

Ireland's chance


08:32 PM BST

29 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Keenan clears and South Africa have the line-out outside their own 22.

Etzebeth claims it, the Springboks kick and Arendse claims. De Klerk kicks again from the base and Lowe doesn’t get long, scragged by Willemse inside the Irish 22.

Gibson-Park box-kicks, Arendse drops, and Ireland will restart with a scrum inside their own half.


08:30 PM BST

26 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Sexton continues - and there’s another wonderfully solid scrum.

De Klerk finds Kriel, who’s chopped by Aki two metres short - he offloads to Kolisi in support but the skipper can’t hold on and Doris comes away with it.

Ireland clear, the kick-chase is enthusiastic, and they force a South African knock-on just outside the Irish 22.

Fields of Athenry is echoing around the Stade de France.


08:27 PM BST

23 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

De Allende has flattened Sexton now!

Du Toit takes South Africa up to the Irish line but he’s stripped by Lowe and Ireland dot down over the tryline.

This looks like it’s going to be restarting as a Springbok scrum.

Ireland draws its breath for Johnny, who’s receiving treatment..


08:25 PM BST

22 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

It’s not straight from Kelleher.

South Africa are obliterating the Irish line-out here.

Would it be too savage and panicky to suggest that Sheehan comes on for Kelleher?

Meanwhile, Henshaw is coming on for Ringrose after that clash with De Allende. An HIA. He might be back.


08:24 PM BST

21 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

De Allende sits Ringrose down - that looks to have hurt the centre.

Then, Libbok threads the most savage kick towards the Irish corner. Keenan is forced to watch it trickle into touch a metre from Ireland’s line.

Ireland win the line-out but Etzebeth half-charges down Gibson-Park and Ireland will have to do it again from inside the 22.

The standard of this game is quite something.


08:22 PM BST

19 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Ireland secure the line-out ball but that is phenomenal from Arendse.

Van der Flier feeds Gibson-Park, the scrum-half putting Aki through a half-gap, getting over the gainline, but the wing jackals incredibly well to win a holding-on penalty.

South Africa, again, survive and clear.


08:20 PM BST

18 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Scrummaging nirvana ends with Willemse beating Gibson-Park down the right.

Ireland rally superbly, however, to stifle the Springboks’ momentum after a meaty Etzebeth carry and Lowe wins the holding-on penalty.

Sexton gives his side a line-out on the South African 22.


08:17 PM BST

16 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Beirne wins a turnover in midfield after Kolisi is met by three Irish defenders.

The issue, however, is that the lock drops the ball as he wins it.

Scrum South Africa on their own 10-metre line.


08:16 PM BST

14 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Penalty South Africa!

Furlong engages early at the scrum and O’Keeffe loses patience.

The Springboks clear with ease, up to their own 10-metre line.


08:15 PM BST

14 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

So close from Ireland - and far better!

They win their first line-out, at the fifth attempt, and Van der Flier cannons into the midfield.

Ireland recycle, and Ringrose dummies superbly before firing a wide pass to Keenan. The full-back beats Kriel for pace and only a last-gasp tackle stops him five metres short.

It ends with an Irish knock-on over the line, but South Africa will restart with a five-metre scrum.


08:13 PM BST

12 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Make that zero from four... this is becoming a real concern - already.

De Klerk clears up to the South African 10-metre line.


08:12 PM BST

11 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Free-kick from the scrum with Ireland early on the engage.

South Africa scrum again. Wiese carries off the back dynamically, chopped by Van der Flier.

Hansen defuses a De Klerk bomb - and takes a shot for his troubles - before Etzebeth is penalised for a ruck infringement on halfway.

Back to the line-out we go, on the Springbok five-metre line, with Ireland zero from three so far...


08:09 PM BST

8 mins: RSA 3 IRE 0

Again, the Springboks give no quarter defensively, but De Klerk is penalised for a deliberate knock-on from a Sexton pass on halfway.

Sexton gives Ireland the line-out just outside the South African 22 - but the Irish knock-on in the line.

First scrum!


08:07 PM BST

PEN LIBBOK: RSA 3 IRE 0

An early lead with a simple shot for Libbok.

It’s been frenetic and, although it’s only five minutes in, South Africa look absolutely on it.


08:06 PM BST

4 mins: RSA 0 IRE 0

Length-of-the-field stuff!

South Africa clear and the bounce is vicious, deceiving Lowe. Arendse claims, feeds Kriel inside and only a superb last-gasp tackle from Ringrose stops the Springbok, on the Irish 22.

South Africa keep the ball in hand, Wiese carries like a train. It’s frenetic, Ireland pile off their feet and it’s a penalty to the Springboks.

Kolisi points at the sticks.


08:04 PM BST

3 mins: RSA 0 IRE 0

Tense.

Ireland just about claim the line-out through Doris. Beirne, Aki and Ringrose carry but the South African defence is physical as we expected.

Kitshoff does not roll away, however, and it’s a penalty to Ireland.

They go to the corner - but Du Toit steals!


08:02 PM BST

1 min: RSA 0 IRE 0

Goodness me - that’s a nervy start from South Africa!

De Klerk wants to run it out of the 22, his pass is asking a lot of Kolbe and the wing spills into touch out wide.

Seconds earlier, Willemse was absolutely floored by Kelleher.

Van der Flier is receiving some treatment, too.

It’s all happening!


08:00 PM BST

Kick-off!

Here we go!

Let’s hope it’s a match befitting the billing.

Sexton will get us under way.


07:56 PM BST

News flash

The anthems, unfortunately, are still a mess.

‘Ireland’s Call’, even with music backing, is simply too fast.

The crowd can’t keep up - it’s like they’re singing in a canon!


07:55 PM BST

Here come the teams!

Kolisi and Mbonambi offering their usual in-tunnel sing-song as they wait.

The sides emerge and the Stade de France is rocking!


07:50 PM BST

Teams reminder

Shortly, both sides will be out in Paris.

Before the anthems, here’s a reminder of tonight’s line-ups, with both teams virtually at full strength.

A reminder, too, in case you weren’t aware - where have you been? - that seven of South Africa’s eight replacements are forwards.

South Africa starting XV: Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach.

Ireland starting XV: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Robbie Henshaw.


07:44 PM BST

Christmas gift inspiration?


07:42 PM BST

A snippet from Paris

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are both present at the Stade de France, cheering on the Irish.

World Rugby data suggests that Ireland supporters will outnumber Springboks fans by two one. 24,000 to 12,000 according to ticket data.

Johnny Sexton received a huge cheer when he first appeared running along the deadball line to the 22.

Parisian Guinness sales set to hit record levels...


07:39 PM BST

Andy Farrell speaks to ITV

The preparation has been great - as it should be. The players have owned the week. There’s a nice nervous tension and that normally transfers into a nice performance.

We’re playing against a world-class side, the reigning champions. We know all about them, but it’s about respecting ourselves and imposing our game on them - we’ll try to do that.

[Does South Africa’s bench affect us?] Not at all. It’s all about us.


07:32 PM BST

Who's your money on?

Let me know in the comments.

I’m going... Ireland by four, but I’m not confident - in any way.


07:24 PM BST

The fans are ready. . .

South Africa fans
South Africa fans
Fans of South Africa
Fans of South Africa
Ireland supporters
Ireland supporters

07:19 PM BST

Today's referee

Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe will take charge of the match. The 2023 Rugby World Cup is O’Keeffe’s second as an official after he took charge of three matches at the 2019 tournament.


07:11 PM BST

Rugby World Cup free bets and betting offers

Tonight provides a mouth-watering clash between two World Cup title contenders as South Africa face Ireland at the Stade de France.

With the Springboks, the Irish and Scotland all battling for the top two places in Pool B, every game matters in this group.

The victors this evening in Saint-Denis could well finish top of the pile and it looks set to be a brutal encounter as Ireland, the top-ranked side globally, go toe-to-toe with the reigning world champion

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06:59 PM BST

Team news

Ireland

Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park has been recalled in the only change to Ireland’s starting XV.

Gibson-Park, who sat out his side’s 59-16 win over Tonga, will resume his half-back partnership with captain Johnny Sexton at Stade de France, with Conor Murray dropping to the bench.

Jamison Gibson-Park
Jamison Gibson-Park

Hooker Dan Sheehan is in line for his first appearance since suffering a foot injury in last month’s warm-up win over England after being named among the replacements.

Ireland starting XV: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Robbie Henshaw.

South Africa

The reigning champions have recalled their star names as part of 13 personnel changes.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse, who switches from fly-half to full-back, are the only two starting players retained from Sunday’s 76-0 thrashing of Pool B minnows Romania.

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has opted for a seven-one split of forwards and backs on a stacked bench for the Stade de France showdown.

His selection shows just one enforced alteration from the team which launched their title defence with an 18-3 win over Scotland on September 10, with Mbonambi continuing in place of Malcolm Marx, whose tournament was ended by a serious knee injury sustained in that game.

As expected, lock Eben Etzebeth has overcome a shoulder issue to take his place in a formidable XV captained by flanker Siya Kolisi. Ulster prop Steven Kitshoff starts, while Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the last World Cup, and fellow Munster lock RG Snyman are among the replacements.

South Africa starting XV: Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach.


06:54 PM BST

The clash we’ve all been waiting for. . .

Hello and welcome to the one we’ve all been waiting for, the clash of the pool stages, Ireland against South Africa in Paris.

Tonight, we shall be spoiled. It is not often in the pool stages of the World Cup that the No 1 ranked side faces the reigning world champions, but that is exactly what’s happening at the Stade de France.

Both teams are virtually at full strength, too - so it should be a cracker. There is more pressure on Ireland to win, however, given South Africa have already played - and defeated - Scotland. A loss tonight to Andy Farrell’s side and the pressure will pile on them to defeat Scotland in the final round of the pool stages, in what would probably be a straight knockout match.

This week, however, there has only been one story in town - and it has had nothing to do with Ireland. It has centred around the Springboks’ decision to select seven out of eight forwards on the bench.

On Friday, Mzwandile Stick, South Africa’s backs coach, explained that decision: “It’s a World Cup, the biggest tournament you can get involved in. If you don’t get people talking about your team, then maybe you are doing something wrong. We just focus on our strengths and what works for us. Sometimes it is not always seven-one but, for this game, knowing the challenge that lies ahead and the quality of Ireland, we just wanted to make sure we have got fresh legs on the field.”

Ireland have not followed suit. In fact, Farrell has not even gone with a six-two split, sticking with the conventional five forwards and three backs. Paul O’Connell, Ireland’s forwards coach, says he has no problem with the Springboks’ tactics, focusing instead on his own squad.

“I don’t have a problem with it, that’s for sure,” O’Connell said. “If you have guys to cover there, it makes sense, if you feel it gives you something, fair play to them. Our plan is five-three, theirs is seven-one. I don’t give it a whole lot more thought than that.”

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