Analysing the pre-World Cup form of the last five winners and why Ireland should take heart
Ireland have been forced to rethink their place in the game in the aftermath of what England did to them.
There is a perception that back-to-back Grand Slams would have been the ideal preparation for Ireland to go where they had not gone before – the semi-final.
In fact, England are the only one of the last five World Cup winners to have achieved their goal of a Six Nations title and Grand Slam in the lead-up to the competition.
It is the exception to the rule.
Even New Zealand came up short of their expectations in the 2011 Tri-Nations and the 2015 Rugby Championship.
1999 WORLD CUP FINAL:
AUSTRALIA 35 FRANCE 12
(1999 Tri Nations: Australia 2nd)
The Wallabies could do no better than a break-even two wins and losses, although they did keep the Bledisloe Cup out of the hands of the All Blacks.
They finished second to New Zealand, losing away to the All Blacks (34-15) in Auckland and the Springboks (10-9) in Cape Town.
2003 WORLD CUP FINAL:
ENGLAND 20 AUSTRALIA 17 (AET)
(2003 Six Nations: England 1st AND Grand Slam)
This is the outstanding example of how achieving in the year of a World Cup can make all the difference to a team.
England and Ireland came together in March of 2003 with both nations hunting a Grand Slam.
The hurt stored up by Clive Woodward's men from losing out on a Slam on the final day of three of the previous four seasons propelled them to a crushing 42-6 win in Dublin.
2007 WORLD CUP FINAL:
SOUTH AFRICA 15 ENGLAND 6
2007 Tri Nations: South Africa 3rd
South Africa slumped to the bottom of the pile of three with just one win from four in the 2007 Tri-Nations series. New Zealand (26-21) in Durban, Australia (25-17) in Sydney and the All Blacks (33-6) in Christchurch.
It was the manner of their domination in the final of the four fixtures that had South African rugby up in arms in July.
2011 WORLD CUP FINAL:
NEW ZEALAND 8 FRANCE 7.
(2011 Tri-Nations: New Zealand 2nd)
The pressure on the All Blacks was not helped by how ordinary they looked in the Tri-Nations series, Australia winning out for the first time in ten years.
New Zealand could only win two from four, winning the first two.
However, South Africa halted their momentum (18-5) in Port Elizabeth and Australia sealed the title (25-20) in Brisbane to leave coach Graham Henry with more questions than answers.
2015 world cup final:
NEW ZEALAND 34 AUSTRALIA 17
(2015 Championship: New Zealand 2nd)
Four years ago, the Rugby Championship was shortened, each nation playing each other just once with the World Cup in mind.
It all came down to the final round in a 'winner-takes-all' confrontation, with the Wallabies claiming the honours 27-19 in Sydney to complete the clean sweep.