Ireland's Mack Hansen has expressed his excitement ahead of the significant test against South Africa on Saturday in Paris.
The Connacht winger has been chosen to start on the wing for Ireland. For Hansen and the rest of the Irish squad, this match represents an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
A victory for Ireland would ensure that, unless they lose against Scotland in their final pool game, they will finish at the top and face New Zealand in the quarter-finals. Despite having defeated every team they've faced thus far, the clash against the Boks is the one Hansen and the current Irish team have eagerly awaited for a long-time.
Hansen shared, ''This is kind of what we've been working for, for the last three years I've been in here and the four years for the lads who have been under this coaching staff as well.
“So we're super-excited for it.
"It's a big step up from the previous games that we've had but it's everything we've been working for this whole time.
“It’s probably everything you dream of when growing up, these kind of games. You don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.
“For something like to finally come around, playing in the World Cup against the defending champions is something you’d always hope to be involved in and to get this opportunity to play in this outstanding team.”
🗣️ 'It's probably everything you dream of... playing a World Cup against the defending champions.'
Mack Hansen is relishing in the challenge of tackling Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse tomorrow. | ☘️ v 🇿🇦@VodafoneIreland | #TeamOfUs pic.twitter.com/QENg6wcaGq
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) September 22, 2023
Josh Van der Flier also echoed his counterpart's sentiments about playing in 'dream games.' Anticipation is building, with 30,000 Irish fans expected at the Stade de France for the 8pm game. Van der Flier added, "They’re the games you want to be playing in and obviously an unbelievable stadium here in Stade de France.
“I’ve played here a few times now and playing with a few Irish fans there but mostly French fans is incredible but it will be even more special playing tomorrow.
“It’s the dream, it’s every kid’s dream to get to play in front of that many Irish fans in a World Cup in a stadium like this and against a team like South Africa as well.
"It’s a dream come true really.
“It’s incredibly exciting and I think everyone is looking forward to it.”
- Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
- Venue: Stade de France, Paris
- Kick-off: 8:00 pm (9:00pm local)
- Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
- TV Coverage: Live on ITV (UK) and RTÉ (ROI)