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O'Gara aims for World respect

Ronan O'Gara is unable to predict how Ireland will perform at the World Cup, admitting "anything can happen".

A squad widely considered the finest in the nation's history has been undermined by inconsistency and has failed to realise its true potential beyond winning the Grand Slam in 2009.

The World Cup has proved an unhappy hunting ground, most notably four years ago when they exited the competition in the group stage following a torrid campaign.

Past experience has braced O'Gara for a tournament of potential extremes.

"Anything can happen at this World Cup and that's typical of us," he said.

"We can have a bleak campaign or a fantastic campaign. I suppose that's an upshot of our careers. There's a great mood in the camp and we are excited.

"It's a tough group but there are opportunities there as well.


"It's important to get off to a good start and try to build momentum."

For many of Ireland's biggest names -- players like Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara -- New Zealand will be their last chance to produce on the sport's greatest stage.

"The fact this is my last World Cup is important," said the 34-year-old, who will be playing in the tournament for a third time. "I've had a good career and made an impact at European level, but the World Cup is the elite level.

"For years at Munster we were unlucky not to win the Heineken Cup. But when we did win it, we earned respect.

"With Ireland we haven't earned that respect at world level. It's up to us to try and earn it."

On current form, Ireland look destined for a brief stay in New Zealand after losing all four of their warm-up internationals last month.


But spirits have clearly been raised by their arrival in the spectacular surroundings of Queenstown and O'Gara detects a change in mood.

"During the warm-up games we were mentally off-pitch," he said. "Since we've arrived here I've noticed a difference in attitude among the players.

"That will count for an awful lot.

"Maybe we viewed the warm-up games as trials while other countries saw them as full on Test matches.

"England were hurting from their defeat in March. They came out with a point to prove and proved it.

"There's no panic in the camp. We're not denying that we wanted to win those games, but at this level you have to be at fever pitch."