Rugby World Cup 2023

Stuart Hogg: Ruthless and relentless Ireland can break the curse – they don’t fear the All Blacks any more

Ireland can soak up pressure and surge clear in transition to reach a first-ever Rugby World Cup semi-final, explains Stuart Hogg, but watch out for a fabulous France ready to dethrone South Africa

Saturday 14 October 2023 18:14 BST
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, left, and Tadhg Beirne celebrate against Scotland
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, left, and Tadhg Beirne celebrate against Scotland (AP)

I think it is absolutely tremendous that we’ve got four nations from the northern hemisphere in with a shot of the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. Everyone used to associate the World Cup with the southern hemisphere teams. They were the best of the best, and had been for generations. But international rugby is becoming more of a level playing field. The boys from the northern hemisphere are really starting to step up their game and show what they are about.

You always used to think that it was going to be New Zealand, South Africa or Australia who were going to win the World Cup. Now it is France and Ireland who are possibly the best teams in the competition.

We did learn a huge amount from the southern hemisphere and now it is about nullifying them, and getting better. The players in the northern hemisphere are making the game better to watch, and the Gallagher Premiership, Top 14 and United Rugby Championship (URC) have become tough leagues to play in. That is only going to make an international team stronger. It has made a massive difference over the past 10 years.

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