Ireland are lacking something in their psyche when it comes to knockout rugby, according to Neil Francis.
It’s a matter of well-documented history that an Irish Rugby World Cup invariably ends at the quarter-final stage, with defeat on each of the six occasions they’ve made it that far. Add in two eliminations before that stage and it’s a grim record for a tier-one nation.
The loss to Japan means the most likely route to breach that wall would be a Tokyo clash against the All-Blacks and although Ireland have had the upper hand in recent meetings, with two wins in the last three, Francis believes the nature of the competition will be Ireland’s undoing.
"We’re not a good cup team. If you look at the Six Nations, it’s a league. We perform well there. We’re good at one-offs (Tests) but this is a cup," he told The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Aldi.
"Okay, there’s a group phase but really that’s a formality. Maybe not so much as everyone expected this time with Ireland, Scotland and Japan so there you go, don't take anything dor granted. But we’re just not good in cups.
"And it’s hard to explain it because if you look at the teams that are contenders, New Zealand (for example) know exactly what to do.
"They’re primed for it. You can just see them bubbling up and then suddenly it cuts to the knockout stages and they are absolutely geared to win those games."
That said, it’s also a historical fact that the All-Blacks themselves had a similarly flaky record for the preeminent side in the game with a 24-year gap from their maiden triumph in the inaugural tournament in 1987 before finally claiming their second in 2011.
And should the weekend’s results see Ireland finish Pool A in second place, then Francis thinks that they should look to the Kiwis last World Cup defeat, the famous 2007 quarter-final against France, for inspiration.
Yet the three-time World Cup squad member also believes that the magnitude of such a victory would leave the boys in green ripe for picking off in a semi-final.
"If you go back to that match in Cardiff which was just fantastic, Dusautoir, 500 tackles or whatever. They lost Carter but you analyse that game and it was put up to them," he explained.
"Can Ireland do that? Yes, they can but talking to a few of the Kiwis, they think they’re going to win. They think Ireland and New Zealand are going to be playing each other and they’re going to beat us by 20 points.
"If we won a quarter-final I’d be happy. A year ago, not so much but now that’s maybe the public perception of where this team can go.
"Just win a quarter-final. Please. And you can wander off into the sunset and get thumped by Wales in the semi-finals.
"All I want is that the team get to a quarter-final and they max out. They play their best game and if they’re beaten, they’re beaten.
"I just think that the way we play, we can’t get over a huge performance a week later. Mentally, that’s where we are. We beat Australia in the Pools in New Zealand. We beat France in the Pools in England.
"We beat Scotland but we haven’t had a big performance yet (in Japan) so it could be coming."