Bowe: We can shoulder the expectancy
Tommy Bowe has been in this situation before but it doesn't make it any less exciting than it was for him four years ago.
Missing out on Ireland's 2007 World Cup squad was branded an "ultimate low" by Bowe himself and although he exorcised some of those demons in 2011, he still feels as if he has something to prove on the world stage.
As the squad enter their second week of training camp, the winger, more so than most, understands the small margins and although he is considered to be a vital cog in Joe Schmidt's master plan, Bowe isn't taking anything for granted.
In 2007, he had completed Ireland's gruelling training camp under Eddie O'Sullivan's watch, only to be left of the eventual 30-man squad and as the intensity is ramped up this week, Bowe is relishing the "huge amount of competition" for places.
"I probably have had one of my biggest highlights of my career in a World Cup and probably the biggest disappointment of my career," Bowe admits.
"That's what a World Cup brings and that's the sort of excitement you can look forward to.
"There's always more for me to do. I enjoyed the last World Cup but in the pre-season, I was a bit hampered with a few niggles and maybe wasn't up to the fitness level I might have wanted to be at.
"Hopefully I can get myself through this pre-season to the sort of fitness and strength levels that I want to be at; hopefully be a part of the squad and show my best.
"We have a couple of key players, senior players whose last World Cup it will be, but we also have a huge amount of young fellas who have come in and added a bit of energy, taking it up a whole new level with their enthusiasm and excitement.
"As a squad we have a great blend and that's been shown in the last couple of competitions we have played. It is a huge opportunity for us."
The bitter disappointment of the defeat to New Zealand in 2013 still lingers, according to Bowe, but he, like those who were involved that day at the Aviva Stadium, have used it to fuel their fire.
On the back of winning two Six Nations Championships, the level of expectation surrounding the Ireland squad has arguably never been as high, but the fact they have yet to get beyond the last eight of a World Cup remains a significant hurdle that must be surpassed -especially now with the players at their disposal.
"In years gone by, I think Ireland have enjoyed being the underdogs, but with the players we have in the squad now, the coaching staff, the fact we have won back-to-back Six Nations Championships, we can shoulder the expectation that certainly the Irish public have for us," Bowe explains.
"Everybody in Ireland wants us to be out there winning things. I suppose that comes with being successful and I think that sort of expectation is great. It drives us forward as a team.
"I think that it's something we have been building on since that All Blacks game, two autumn international series ago, where we let it slip in the last couple of minutes. That was a real shock for the team, a real learning curve.
"Since then, we have learnt a lot of things and hopefully when it comes to the crunch matches like it has in the last couple of Six Nations (Championships), we can be strong and get the win."
As Bowe casts a despondent eye back on how Ulster's season was abruptly halted, the 31-year-old concedes it was "borderline heartbreak", however, he is adamant that the winning mentality amongst the Irish players has them primed, less than 10 weeks out from their opening game of the World Cup.
"In the squad, there are a lot of players, like those from Leinster and Munster, who have won trophies in the last couple of years and are used to shouldering that responsibility, that expectancy.
"There are players who are used to it and thrive on it. The Six Nations is such a tight competition, as you saw on the last day, but we have that confidence. At the same time we know one slip, one dropped ball, one missed tackle can mean a completely different result."