Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell says his side must draw on the big-game experience which brought a historic series win in New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam to defeat South Africa.
Test rugby’s top-ranked nation clash with the reigning champions on Saturday in a blockbuster match in Paris.
Ireland go into the pivotal Pool B showdown on a 15-game winning streak, including turning over the All Blacks on enemy territory and a Dublin success over the Springboks.
Andy Farrell’s men are viewed as slight underdogs against the Springboks, but O’Connell has backed the team to register another statement win.
‘It’s going to take a big performance,’ said the former Ireland captain. ‘South Africa present a big physical challenge and a real technical challenge.
Ireland coach Paul O’Connell has called on Ireland to use their big-game experience in their match against South Africa
Ireland achieved a Six Nations Grand Slam this year and are on a 15-game winning streak
They have won both their matches at the World Cup so far but face their toughest test yet this weekend against the Springboks
They’re a very smart side.
‘The players have got to bring everything they’ve brought to the big occasions they’ve been in in the last few years.
‘We’ve had a Test series decider down in New Zealand, we’ve had a Grand Slam decider, we’ve had a tough autumn series against some very tricky opposition and the boys have always found a way and figured it out.’
Ireland have the chance to qualify for the quarter-finals with a game to spare following bonus-point victories over Romania and Tonga.
They have won 27 of their last 29 Test matches, a run stretching back to the 2021 Six Nations, with Farrell openly embracing adversity throughout his reign.
A day after France captain Antoine Dupont suffered a facial fracture against Namibia, O’Connell acknowledged Ireland will have to be adaptable and overcome setbacks in by far their biggest test of the tournament to date.
O’Connell acknowledged Ireland will have to be adaptable to beat South Africa in France
He said: ‘Nothing is ever straightforward. We were down in New Zealand (last summer), I remember I’d meet Mack (Hansen), he’d been down in the park training on his own because he had Covid. Some of the coaching staff had Covid.
‘We’ve had all sorts of challenges thrown at us. It’s a big strength of Andy’s that he revels in it and enjoys it.
‘There’s going to be ups and downs during the World Cup and there will be ups and downs within the game. Players’ experience and their willingness to embrace those challenges and those obstacles is what has gotten them to where they are at the moment.
‘There will be plenty of that tomorrow, there is no doubt about it.’