Irish Rugby: The World Cup is thankfully six months away

Dejected Ireland players after the 25-7 loss to Wales in Cardiff
Dejected Ireland players after the 25-7 loss to Wales in Cardiff
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Thoughts had already turned to the World Cup later his year in Japan when Ireland defeated New Zealand for the first time in Dublin back in November last year.

That win - only the second ever over the World Champions - conjured up all sorts of thoughts for supporters in green.

Then ranked world number two, Ireland reflected on a fantastic 2018 which included a Six Nations Grand Slam.

The 2019 Six Nations arrived with heightened expectations and the auld enemy England soon lowered those high hopes.

A defeat in Dublin on the opening day of the Championship was not in the script.

And six weeks later in Cardiff, Ireland were dethroned as Six Nations champions by Wales and also demoted to third in the world rankings.

In spite of having shown an improvement in form from the previous week’s win over France in Dublin, Ireland produced one of their worst performances for some time - certainly in the Joe Schmidt era anyway.

Sloppy handling, ill discipline and a wobbly set piece - the very thing their game is built on - was Ireland’s key issues of concern.

However, the world has not caved in.

With a pre-season to come and four warm-up games there is plenty of time before an opening pool game against Scotland on September 22.

It is of course probably the most crucial of their games, with Japan, Russia and Samoa to follow, and after Scotland’s showing against England, nothing can be taken for granted!

This Irish squad can still expect to progress to the last eight as pool winners.

However, the big question will be can Schmidt’s charges deliver three weeks in a row against quality opposition - which is what you have to do to lift the trophy.

Ireland’s aim will be to reach the semi-finals for the first time ever - something which last November was a realistic proposition.

But the strength in depth we thought Ireland had may not be enough - and with it the consistency to perform at the highest level back to back.

The World Cup is, thankfully, six months away.