George Hook: Ireland have no chance of winning the World Cup
George Hook believes Joe Schmidt's Six Nations champions have no chance of lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy when the tournament kicks off later this month.
Only the All Blacks sit above Ireland in the world rankings, but despite back-to-back Six Nations titles, Hook has dismissed any notions of a fairytale finale for captain Paul O'Connell.
"We have no chance of winning this World Cup," he told BBC Northern Ireland. "We have never even qualified for a semi-final before so let's get a bit of realism here. I think of all the teams heading into the tournament we are the least balanced."
Schmidt revealed how he and his management staff cut their playing squad to 31 after six hours of deliberation, with Andrew Trimble one of the high-profile casualties.
The former Leinster described as the 'brutal reality of what we do' as the 2014 Player of the Year was left out, though Hook believes his lack of game time after injury layoffs impacted on the final decision.
"Normally I would put him ahead of Zebo or Earls no doubt but it's not just his injury. He's been out for a long time," he said.
Meanwhile Ronan O'Gara has not ruled out seeing Trimble feature in the World Cup, suggesting he is at the top of the queue should any of the chosen backs succumb to injury.
He added that his positive outlook would benefit the squad and also help him come to terms with the crushing decision.
"I know him quite well and he is an extremely positive and stable individual," he told 2FM's Game On.
"It's very easy for him to compartmentalise the decision. He hasn't played that much rugby, but the likelihood is that he is next in. Hopefully from his point of view he will see action. He's just got to make sure now that the next three or four weeks is an opportunity for himself to really hit the ground running whether he plays for Ulster, whether he works on his own personal development."
The former Munster out-half also believes that there is still a chance that he may well appear in the tournament which begins in less than three weeks.
"He's a guy who is a massive addition to a camp. I wouldn't think the door is closed. The door is closed because of a lack of time on the pitch, not ability."