RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL D: Italian game is pivotal for Ireland says head coach Joe Schmidt

Ireland's Keith Earls scores against Romania
Ireland's Keith Earls scores against Romania

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt declared that his side’s World Cup starts now after they claimed a convincing bonus-point victory over Romania.

The 44-10 win at Wembley sees Ireland move to the top of Pool D but their progress to the quarter-finals will depend on tougher tests against both France and, more immediately, Italy next Sunday.

Ireland can guarantee qualification to the knock-out stages if they beat the Italians at the Olympic Stadium but it will be important to finish first too, given reigning champions New Zealand could lie in wait for the runners-up.

“Next week is the pivotal week,” Schmidt said.

“It’s where we can qualify ourselves. The game against France just decides who we play in the quarter-final if we can win next week.

“It’s pressure for us and pressure for Italy. That’s why people come to a World Cup - they want to see how teams respond to the pressure cooker environment.”

Schmidt added: “We know we can qualify if we win next weekend. Italy, after a win and a loss, need to win next weekend to qualify. It becomes a last-16 game for us.”

Ireland are sweating on the fitness of Rob Kearney for the match after he injured himself scoring the fifth try shortly after coming on as a substitute.

“Rob was involved in a high-speed play after coming on the pitch and just after scoring the try he’s jarred himself,” Schmidt said.

“We hope it’s not too much but the next 24 to 48 hours will tell if he’s done anything telling for next week.

“It’s through his glute and hip. It happened when his knee hit the ground.”