Ireland fans leave Dublin Airport in search of a Rugby World Cup

Dublin Airport a sea of green ahead of Ireland’s first game against Romania on Saturday

Dublin Airport was a sea of green as Ireland fans prepared to fly out to Bordeaux for the Rugby World Cup which begins in France this weekend.

Ireland will face Romania in the first of their four matches in their Pool B group on Saturday in Stade de Bordeaux, where the game kicks off at 2.30pm Irish time.

Over the next seven weeks, the best 20 teams will face off against each other for the Webb Ellis Cup.

Darren Bowden from Athy, Co Kildare was travelling with two other friends, Kevin Caherty from Co Armagh and John Bradley from Ballon, Co Carlow.

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Mr Bowden simply said he was travelling over with the hope of seeing the Irish team that would eventually “lift the World Cup”.

“We have as good a chance as any year prior to now. As long as we don’t meet the Argentinians I think we have a good chance,” Mr Bowden said. He predicted a victory of between 20-30 points over rivals Romania.

Four friends from Co Wexford, Seán O’Connor (29) and Ciaran O’Doherty (27) from Gorey, and brothers Ennae (25) and Donnchadh (28) Carroll from Blackwater, were thrilled to get the chance to travel to Bordeaux when they managed to clinch tickets in the past couple of days.

Mr O’Connor explained the trip “was last minute” because “thankfully we managed to get tickets just in time”.

Donnchadh Carroll said Ireland are a “strong team and will build into the game” while Mr O’Doherty said the side “should play comfortably”.

Also waiting eagerly at the departure gates were Emma McGrath from Dublin and two of her children, Kate and Patrick, wearing their green jerseys with pride.

Ms McGrath said that the three boys in their household have all played and play rugby.

“We are a big rugby household. I think Ireland is going to win. I think it will be a good match and Ireland will win by a fair margin. We are so lucky to be going to all four matches in the group,” Ms McGrath said.

Meanwhile in France, a designated section in Mérignac airport was allocated to the Irish fans, such are the numbers travelling to Bordeaux.

A “rugby village” in the Saint-Michel Sports Park has become a fan zone, being able to accommodate up to 10,000 people with matches on big screens, food and drink.

In Bordeaux itself, the majority of fans are congregating in Irish pubs including The Connemara, Molly Malone’s and the Blarney Stone.

In The Connemara Bar, Dan Looby from Tipperary, a staunch rugby fan who has been to several rugby world cups, said: “We are making a week out of the trip. There has been a great atmosphere all week and it’s even better here tonight for the official start of the games with France pitched against New Zealand, our great foes.

“The Irish team will do us proud, not only against Romania but [in] all of our pool games.”

Another fan who has been involved in playing rugby all his life, Seamus Murphy from the outskirts of New Ross, Co Wexford, added: “We are so lucky to be here. We have a great team and I firmly believe we have a strong chance of making it out of the quarterfinals even for the first time ever.”

The area of Tours has also become the unofficial place where many of the fans are staying as Andy Farrell’s team are basing themselves there.

Farrell’s squad set up their training and rest base in the Tours area earlier this week, while training daily at nearby Stade Chambrerie.

Irish captain and outhalf Johnny Sexton (38) will make his first appearance in six months, due to a groin tear and a three-match suspension. He will be joined by hooker Rónan Kelleher who did not play preseason.

Ireland are promising to hit the ground running against Romania, followed by Tonga, South Africa and Scotland.

The Irish players for Saturday’s opening game are Caelan Doris, Keith Earls, Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Joe McCarthy, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony.