'I absolutely think they can win it' - Brian O'Driscoll backs Ireland for World Cup glory
Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll believes Joe Schmidt's squad can be big in Japan to prove they really are the number one ranked side in world rugby.
Many have ridiculed the Irish side’s status as world number ones despite a Twickenham hammering last month and a dismal Six Nations.
However, the gilded centre, who featured in four World Cups without ever getting beyond a quarter-final, says this will be Ireland’s best chance yet because they know they have beaten all their major rivals since the last competition.
"I absolutely think they can win it but they need a lot to go for them," said the 133-times capped Leinster man.
"But on the basis of what I’ve watched in the last two years, they can win the World Cup. They can win that group, and then beat South Africa or New Zealand.
"It's a big ask but they can beat them. Then you're in a semi-final against Wales or Australia or England. We've beaten all those teams.
"So on the basis of that I do believe. It's the first World Cup Ireland have entered that they know they have beaten all the teams in it. And there's a confidence that comes with that."
Their confidence will be boosted by their status as world number ones but O’Driscoll does not believe that will place added pressure on Schmidt’s side.
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"It won’t put any pressure on them," he says. "It's a nice added incentive to have as a team.
"It's nice to tick all those boxes over the course of a few years as you’ve been climbing to prominence which is what this team have done over the past four years.
"Winning a series in Australia for the first time in years. Winning a test in South Africa. Beating the All Blacks. Another Grand Slam. Six Nations titles.
"All those things have added up. They won’t pay that much heed to the ranking but it’s nice to say that at one point, you were part of an Irish team that was number one in the world.
"Irrespective of whether you think the rankings are right or wrong, it’s nice to be there for a few weeks heading into the World Cup."
O'Driscoll was speaking as omnibus research commissioned by Guinness within days of Ireland’s defeat to England in the Summer Series revealed that over half (58%) of Irish adults believe the Irish rugby team can win the tournament.
In fact, six in ten Irish adults are excited about the team’s prospects. The research, carried out to gauge the current levels of belief in the team, pointed to significant differences in the level of belief across the provinces with the most believers in Ulster at 73% and the fewest in Connacht at 44%.
Interestingly, Irish adults are very aware of the powerful role belief can play with 79% agreeing that the team needs their fans to believe if they are to win.
Brian O'Driscoll was announcing Guinness as the official sponsors of belief.