In his first exclusive column, former Ireland international and Betway ambassador David Wallace recalls the lessons of a slow start in 2007
It is perhaps not a bad thing that Ireland’s psyche is a little bit down on the back of those two defeats in their final warm-up games.
My one fear was coming into this tournament was that following two successful Six Nations everybody would be expecting rather than hoping that we could get to the final.
This obviously leads to a lot of pressure and I do not think that Ireland like playing with the favourites’ tag.
Joe Schmidt has been tinkering around a lot – not just with the players that have been playing but also the manner in which they are being sent out to play.
I think that he has held an awful lot back and has treated the warm-up games like training sessions or team runs by focusing on areas where we need to improve, such as at the breakdown.
Over the course of the last two seasons Ireland have been super-efficient there but that hasn’t been the case recently, with Justin Tipuric causing untold damage against them for Wales.
We improved that part of our game against England and seemed to carry the ball a lot more rather than use our normal options, which was encouraging to see.
Of course, you would like the team to be playing with a bit of confidence but we are just going to have to generate that during the opening two games.
I like the way that the pool stages have fallen for us, with the games against Canada and Romania coming up first.
Having said that, we had a similarly gradual build-up in 2007 with games against Georgia and Namibia where it did not really work out for us.
We had a very poor preparation back then and that malaise continued into the tournament – we just could not get that momentum going in the early games and were eliminated as a result.That is the worry because the 2007 World Cup is still very clear in the Irish supporters’ minds, but I do not expect the same thing to happen this time around.
One of Joe Schmidt’s strengths is the way that he looks at the minutiae of the game to ensure that you are doing everything to maximum capacity in every breakdown and every carry, so there should not be any room for a drop in standards.
Ireland need big performances and big wins in those opening games – we have got to go in all guns blazing and aim to put both of those teams to the sword.
Historically Canada have been quite a strong team but Fiji beat them 47-18 in a warm-up game recently, so Ireland should really be aiming to put a similarly decent score on them as well.
Joe Schmidt has virtually a fully-fit squad to choose from and by all accounts he is going to select a very strong side to face the Canadians.
Ireland have actually been very fortunate in the way that their injuries have fallen.
Not only in having a clean bill of health with the likes of Cian Healy and Donnacha Ryan returning, but also to have taken the chance during their absences to look at plenty of other guys in their positions.
It means that their squad is in very strong shape and I would say that most of Schmidt’s selections are pretty much set in stone.
The tightest call for the opening game was on the wing, but I think it is the right for to go for Keith Earls along with Dave Kearney as he might be better served by playing a bit of rugby after being ruled out of the England game.I am also pleased that Iain Henderson got the nod in the big battle with Devin Toner for the second row spot as he is such a powerful ball carrier and Ireland need as many of those in the team as possible.
It would be great to see him getting those easy gain lines because that is where Ireland have struggled recently.
They have not been creating those clean line breaks and scorching 30 or 40 metres up the field and so have had to score tries the hard way.
By all accounts the wingers have been looking sharp in training so hopefully they can take full advantage and that can change.
The World Cup is a very unique environment, with other nations enjoying a massive short in the arm from the rare opportunity to get all of their players together and training for a prolonged period.
The majority of the Ireland players on the other hand spend a lot of time together in camps and play both with and against each other on a regular basis, so that extra boost from first joining up is not as intense.
The realisation that they are on the brink of a World Cup should now have kicked in and I am hoping that come tournament time it will all click into gear.
Hopefully previous under-achievements will not play on the players’ minds.
I don’t think it will – there are enough young guys in the squad who have never experienced that disappointment and Schmidt will have everybody in the right frame of mind.
For me, it all boils down to that France game. If we can beat the French then we really can go a long way.
To do that however, we must generate some momentum early on – and that all starts on Saturday.