Rugby World Cup 2015: Irish primed for Webb Ellis bid
Last updated on .From the section Irish Rugby
|Rugby World Cup Pool D: Ireland v Canada|
|Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 19 September Kick-off: 14:30 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on Radio 5 live sports extra and Radio Ulster FM, the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, with live text commentary online.|
At last, the real stuff can begin.
And the signs are good. I travelled on the same flight as the Ireland team on Wednesday evening. Waiting on baggage in Cardiff airport, I was chatting to Chris Henry and Iain Henderson. Suddenly a voice.
"Are you wearing your flight socks?" "Yes," came the reply. "Let me see."
Pulling up their tracksuit bottoms illustrated that both Henry and Henderson were wearing the correct socks. Lucky boys.
The voice was a member of the Ireland coaching set-up and illustrates that nothing is left to chance. Not even the potential of a fib.
Since Joe Schmidt took over from Declan Kidney in 2013, he's turned his club success with Leinster into international joy. A 78% win ratio with Ireland before the World Cup warm-up games and back-to-back Six Nations titles. Schmidt is the man.
In those two years I've asked players, many times, what does Schmidt bring?
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"His attention to detail."
That exact phrase passed through the lips of Cian Healy, Peter O'Mahony, Paul O'Connell and before he said goodbye - 'King' Brian O'Driscoll. That attention to detail is frightening, so we shouldn't be surprised the boys wear their socks!
Of course, Ireland's progress in the World Cup will have very little to do with flight attire. It's really down to the players.
Will it be the Ireland who lifted the Six Nations in Spring and conceded just three tries? Or will it be the Ireland who missed 80 tackles in the last four games?
Under Schmidt, the players have accepted the responsibility. Jonny Sexton said on Thursday: "Joe has made us accountable day-to-day."
That was the same day the starting team to play Canada was announced. Tommy Bowe was not at his best in the 21-13 defeat by England earlier this month. On Saturday he won't be in the match-day 23.
The World Cup experience has been a largely forgettable one for Ireland. But 2011 shouldn't be written off. Ireland defeated Australia - the first time they had beaten a Southern Hemisphere team below the equator since 1979.
The remarkable level of consistency shown since then, particularly under Schmidt, has been remarkable. Ireland pipped the other teams to the Six Nations title. Twice.
In the past it was Ireland pipped by others. So there's room for optimism. Room for qualified hope.
So can we win it?
"We are one of a number of teams who've shown consistency, and have showed enough in performances to feel they have a chance of winning it," said hooker Rory Best.
"Obviously there's five or six other teams who realistically can win it." I think Rory is spot on.
Beat France and we're playing Argentina in the quarters, meaning Ireland are in the last four and anything can happen. That's what we're all thinking isn't it?
|Ireland's World Cup pool games|
|Saturday, 19 Sept, 14:30 BST: Ireland v Canada, Millennium Stadium|
|Sunday, 27 Sept, 16:45 BST: Ireland v Romania, Wembley Stadium|
|Sunday, 4 Oct, 16:45 BST: Ireland v Italy, Olympic Stadium|
|Sunday, 11 Oct, 16:45 BST: Ireland v France, Millennium Stadium|
That's assuming Ireland beat Italy (Canada and Romania too) and defeat France (who Ireland have played three times in the World Cup and lost all three, miserably).
Then it's Argentina, the side who beat South Africa in South Africa, something interestingly Ireland have never achieved.
But there's no team like New Zealand to bring us back into the real world. Since they picked up Webb Ellis Cup four years ago, the All Blacks have played 47 Test matches winning 42.
That's a 89% win rate. 89%. Even better than Schmidt's. And for me, that's why they'll win it.
Although I still haven't given up hope.
Thomas Niblock is covering the World Cup for BBC and will be reporting for BBC Newsline, Radio Ulster and BBC Sport Online