George Hook: Ireland haven't a World Cup chance without Jonny Sexton and Paul O'Connell
Joe Schmidt's side begin their World Cup preparations at the Millennium Stadium this weekend when they take on Wales and are building towards their group opener against Canada next month.
The pool is likely to be a three-way battle between Ireland, France and Italy for the top two spots, with the runner-up likely to face the All Blacks in the quarter-finals, a "disaster" of a scenario the pundit admits.
"Not topping the group is a disaster, you meet New Zealand in the quarter-final and you have to think that you're not going to win," he told Independent.ie.
"Hope springs eternal but you have to think that we won't.
"If we top it, then that means we beat France.
"There are two French teams. There is the French team that we meet in the Six Nations championship and where they're getting the phone call on Sunday from the club and they are saying that we want you back at practice on Monday and I know that it's a rest week but you're actually playing for us.
"Consequently, they're not great at the Six Nations. What happens at the Six Nations? They're in camp for six weeks, no club, no owner ringing them up.
"They don't like the coach, they tell the coach to get lost and (Thierry) Dusatoir, as he did four years ago, will take over and they will gel. They reached the final and they should have won it."
Hook's main concern surrounds the fitness of our key players, as without them, he holds little hope of the reigning Six Nations champions making a serious assault on the William Webb Ellis Cup.
"Cian Healy is hurt. Is he going to be okay? I don't know. We've four warm-up games. Are we going to pick up injuries?
"If Jonny Sexton gets hurt, then you can tear up the entry form.
"Ireland don't have any chance without Jonny Sexton, ageing Paul O'Connell, he won't like me saying that.
"What hasn't got the coverage it actually merits, rather than deserves, but merits is when you lose Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, that centre-partnership. Ireland have a totally different team now.
"Our game plan wasn't exactly give it to O'Driscoll but it wasn't far short of it."