Assistant coach Mike Catt dismissed suggestions Ireland could collude with Scotland in Saturday’s pivotal Rugby World Cup clash in Paris in order to send home South Africa.
Complex permutations may come into play if Andy Farrell’s men do not win or draw the crunch Pool B clash at Stade de France.
A bonus-point victory for the Scots by a margin of 21 points or more combined with Ireland collecting a losing bonus point for scoring at least four tries would put both nations in the quarter-finals while eliminating the reigning champions.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber insisted rugby is “clean” as he brushed off a potential “match-fixing” conspiracy after being asked about the situation on Sunday following his side’s 49-18 win over Tonga.
Catt says Ireland’s coaches are fully aware of the permutations but, unsurprisingly, gave short shrift to the notion his side are in “cahoots” with the Scots.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” he replied, when asked about Nienaber’s match-fixing comment.
“I think he was asked the question, wasn’t he? He didn’t actually say it was match-fixing, did he?
“That stuff is just white noise in the background. No, we’re not going to go in cahoots with Scotland.
“Firstly I’d ask you, would we want Scotland to beat us by 21 points? If you asked any player in this room, any of us, would they want Scotland to beat you by 21 points? No, sorry.
“Andy is fully aware of what’s going and what needs to happen.
“Ultimately, both teams need to win the game. If you do that then you put yourself in a good position. That’s what we will try and achieve.”
Ireland have won a national-record 16 matches in a row following their 13-8 success over the Springboks on September 23, in addition to 12 of the last 13 meetings with Scotland.
Extending those impressive streaks by once again defeating their Six Nations rivals would comfortably secure progression from the so-called ‘Pool of Death’ as group winners and avoid any unnecessary nail biting.
Catt believes the world’s top-ranked team, who backed up last summer’s series triumph in New Zealand with Grand Slam glory, are comfortable with handling the weight of expectation.
“Yeah, very much so,” said the former England international, who won the World Cup in 2003.
“I think that’s where the trip to New Zealand last year put ourselves in those situations, the Six Nations and winning the Grand Slam on the back of that with England and Scotland, those games.
“We’re well aware and we understand what needs to be done and if we put in a performance defensively and in attack, then there’s a chance that things will go our way but it’s going to be a proper Test match, and that’s why we play the game.
“History is history. It doesn’t come into it at all, from our point of view.
“We’ve prepared well for this game, we’ve had a weekend off on the back of that South Africa game and we need to chase our potential.
“We need to make sure we go up another level to what we were against South Africa.”
Ireland have a fully-fit squad, including vice-captain James Ryan, who has overcome a hand issue sustained against South Africa.
“He’s fine, he’s trained fully with us this morning so we’re happy with how he’s progressed,” Catt said of Leinster lock Ryan.
“He just got a knock on his hand, I think. He’s come out of that fine.”