Ulster star responds to Eben Etzebeth’s ‘arrogant’ claims against Ireland

David Skippers
Eben Etzebeth and Stuart McCloskey image.jpg

Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth in action against Ireland at the 2023 World Cup, and Ulster and Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey.

Stuart McCloskey has dismissed claims by Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth that Ireland’s “arrogance” cost them a spot in last year’s Rugby World Cup final in France.

Etzebeth’s comments caused an uproar recently after he revealed on The Rugby Pod that he was taken aback by what was said by several members of Ireland’s side after the men from the Emerald Isle beat South Africa in their pool match at the global showpiece.

Matches against New Zealand and France looming

Due to the lopsided nature of the pool stage, the top two teams in Pool B would take on New Zealand and France in the quarter-finals both of which were tricky encounters, especially considering Les Bleus were tournament hosts.

“After the game, you shake the guys’ hands and probably 12 out of the 23 told me, ‘See you guys in the final’,” said Etzebeth.

“Because the way the logs worked out we were going to play France and they were going to play New Zealand and my immediate thought was, ‘Are these guys seriously not even thinking about the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-final playing against them?’

“So that remark they made, ‘See you guys in the final’, I was just like these guys are making a big mistake to look past probably one of the most dominant teams, or probably the most dominant team in the last 20 to 30 years of Test rugby.”

Although he was not part of Ireland’s matchday squad for that pool game against the Springboks, McCloskey was part of Ireland head coach Andy Farrell’s 33-man squad and said he doubted Etzebeth’s claims.

How Eben Etzebeth knew ‘arrogant’ Ireland would not reach Rugby World Cup final

Ulster centre McCloskey believes Etzebeth merely misinterpreted what could have been polite comments from his team-mates about a possible rematch between the sides later on at the World Cup.

He also queried whether the Bok enforcer’s version of events was embellished when he spoke about the number of Ireland players that had mentioned a final meeting to him.

“It seems like a crazy thing that he was counting them, for one. That seemed a bit wild he was counting them out,” McCloskey told The Rugby Pod.

“I haven’t spoken to the lads about it. There’s maybe only Iain Henderson was playing from an Ulster perspective but I assume they were just saying it in a way trying to be humble in the victory kind of thing.

‘A classy team’

“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…

“That’s the only way I could see them saying it. I don’t think there was an arrogance from the squad’s behalf that we were going to get there definitely anyway.”

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