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Ireland star responds to ‘crazy’ claim squad promised to see South Africa in World Cup final

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Eben Etzebeth’s claim that Ireland players promised to see South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final has finally been addressed by the Irish camp, with centre Stuart McCloskey offering a more balanced explanation.

The Springboks clashed with Ireland during last year’s tournament in France, with Andy Farrell’s men coming out on top 13-8 in what was a gruelling Stade de France battle.

Much was said and written in the wake of that success, as many had assumed the two would meet again in the latter stages of the tournament. Etzebeth recently claimed he had counted a significant number of Irish players who had vowed to see them “in the final” when exchanging handshakes post-match.

Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey. Pic: Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty Images

Ireland went on to crash out at the hands of the All Blacks in their quarter-final, while South Africa dusted themselves down after the pool loss and conspired to win the tournament – clinching back-to-back World Cup crowns in doing so.

Ireland’s long reign as the number one-ranked team ended after their World Cup disappointment, but they and South Africa will again lock horns in a highly-anticipated tour of South Africa later this summer.

Ahead of that, the heat was turned up as McCloskey responded to Etzebeth’s “crazy” claims and offered that the Irish players had only mentioned the final as a way of implying the Springboks were good enough to to get that far.

He told The Rugby Pod: ‘It seems like a crazy thing that he was counting them, for one. That seemed a bit wild he was counting them out. I haven’t spoken to the lads about it. 

Ireland's James Ryan and South Africa's Steven Kitshoff during the sides' Rugby World Cup Pool B clash at the Stade de France. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
Ireland’s James Ryan and South Africa’s Steven Kitshoff during the sides’ Rugby World Cup Pool B clash at the Stade de France. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

‘I assume they were just saying it in a way trying to be humble in the victory kind of thing. Like, you guys will still be there because obviously they were a classy team, they ended up winning so they got the last laugh.

‘But I don’t think there was any malice in it or arrogance on the guys’ behalf if they did say it.’

Looking ahead to the two-Test tour of South Africa, McCloskey predicted South Africa would be taking a leaf out of Etzebeth’s book and using the World Cup storm to find a “mental edge”.

He continued: ‘Eben Etzebeth seems to have an axe to grind against us anyway so I am sure they will be using that, they seem to do that well and get sort of that mental edge against teams so I am sure they will be using that sort of stuff going into the games and I’m sure they will be unbelievable games.’

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