'We have to believe that we can win World Cup'
Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan tells Cian Tracey how team's 'close bond' can be crucial in France
In many ways, Fiona Coghlan is the epitome of Irish women's rugby, given how much she has achieved for her country.
But one thing that Ireland's captain has yet to do is play against New Zealand – the standard-bearers of world rugby. The Black Ferns are aiming for their fourth consecutive World Cup title, but according to Coghlan, her side won't fear them when they meet in their second Pool B game.
"New Zealand are class. There's no point in saying otherwise," Coghlan admitted. "They're class in men's rugby and they're no different in women's. But we need to impose ourselves and play our own game.
"Gone are the days when we go out and try and stop teams. We know what we're capable of and we just have to believe in ourselves."
While admitting that it will be a special feeling to face the haka, she insists that neither she nor her team-mates will be intimidated by anything New Zealand throw at them.
"I think a lot of people blow the whole haka thing out of proportion. I've always loved watching it and it'll be good to play them because they're the only ranked side above us that we've never played.
"We'll respect them and their traditions, but once the game starts, we'll put all that pre-match stuff to one side," she added.
Such was the success of last year's Grand Slam, the standards of women's rugby have gone up a level or two and Coghlan maintains that this is down to the positive mindset that the players have now developed.
"Every competition we play in, we want to win. It has to be that way now," Coghlan said ahead of the team's opening Pool game against the USA tomorrow.
"USA and New Zealand are both ranked above us, so they're both dangerous opponents. We need to finish top of our pool or one of the best runners-up – it's going to be tough.
"The margins are so close at this level, but we have to go into the competition believing we can win it. Getting to a semi-final would be a massive achievement for us and it would show our progression as a team."
This year's Six Nations campaign may not have gone according to plan but that won't deter Ireland. They know where they went wrong and with the "close bond" that currently exits within the squad, the captain is confident that Ireland can right the wrongs in France.
"It's great when everything is going according to plan, but sport doesn't always work like that and given that the recovery period is so short, we have to be ready for that," Coghlan said.
"We pick random room-mates. I know a lot of teams have certain people who they stay with, but it's something we like to do to keep the close bond. "We can't afford slow starts. We need to stay switched on for the entire game because if we don't, it'll cost us at this level."
* Australia winger Henry Speight will be sidelined for a month by a hamstring injury and has been replaced in the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship by Peter Betham.