At least 15,000 Irish fans will be at La Beaujoire tomorrow night as Andy Farrell’s side look for their second win of this tournament and build momentum with a huge clash with reigning World Cup champions South Africa a week later.
Not that everyone is looking that far. Dan Noonan left Shannon on Thursday and has had a soft spot for Tonga since they pulled off a shock win over France in the 2011 World Cup.
Dan booked his hotel 12 months ago, but he still doesn’t have a ticket for tomorrow’s game. So, what is he going to do to try and get a ticket?
“Do as little as possible. “Usually he’ll come to me,” Dan laughs.
“I haven’t failed yet. I went to Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day 2018 for a Grand Slam match without a ticket and got one. There are always true rugby supporters.
“It’s been so much fun to meet so many supporters here from all over Ireland. We’re very lucky with 30 degrees. I’m good in the shade!”
Nuala Rafferty, her husband Mickey from Dundalk, and her brother Donal Murtagh traveled in a van to France last week with no fixed return date.
They are here for five or six weeks on a flexible ticket. The only Ireland game they got tickets for before leaving their home country was last weekend’s match against Romania.
“Fortunately, we had all reached retirement age and had a lifelong dream of buying a hauler,” says Nuala.
“I started last November booking campsites and making sure there was transportation and the last thing we worried about was tickets because we thought if you were here you had a chance. If you were sitting at home you had no chance.”
This opportunity paid off. They just got all three tickets this afternoon.
“Having the ball, absolutely having the ball,” says Donal Murtagh.
Nuala’s research has also paid off. Their camp site in Bordeaux last weekend was just a 10-minute walk from the stadium, so they did not suffer from tram delays.
The fans have planned their own way of being at this World Cup.
John Kennedy and Roslyn Doyle are traveling to and from France from Ireland for the first of three pool matches including a return next weekend to Paris for a Bucs match.
Although young Liam is happy that Farrell has named a strong squad, it is an opportunity for him to see one of his favorite players Johnny Sexton before he retires whenever this tournament ends.
“It’s great to finally be able to watch it especially in its final season,” says Liam.
Tougher challenges are ahead for Ireland, but these fans will find a well of memories in Nantes.