Ireland can go all the way, but let's take nothing for granted
This weekend marks a pivotal period in the rugby World Cup, when a number of the major teams face crucial contests in making progress towards the knockout stages of the competition.
Tomorrow afternoon, Ireland take on Italy, which will be a sterner test than the fixtures against Canada and Romania.
The Irish are expected to win, and if they do, it will set up a crunch match against France next week, but nothing can be taken for granted.
Italy have beaten Ireland in the past, and they are no pushovers.
One of the delights of this World Cup has been the way in which unfancied teams have played well above themselves.
The superb win by Japan over the Springboks was a warning to all the major nations, and Fiji provided stern opposition against Wales in their pulsating game on Thursday.
All eyes in the rugby world will be on the host nation, England, this evening in their must-win game against Australia.
Having managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the wonderful match against Wales last week, the English team will need to raise their game to avoid the ignominy of being a host nation that did not make it to the playoff stages.
One of the great attractions of this year's World Cup is the range of fixtures and skills, with record crowds and an atmosphere of fierce but disciplined competition.
It is striking to note how hard the games are being played, and the courage and resilience of the players of all nations who stand up to some massive batterings but continue to give of their best.
It is also worth noting how all the players respect and obey the referees, even on occasions when they have made mistakes.
The world of soccer, with its often childish tantrums, cheating and attempts to bully match officials, could learn much from the tough but sporting attitude of rugby union.
Over this weekend, reputations will be won and lost, but all Irish fans will be willing on our team, which includes a talented Ulster contingent, to win. A defeat at this stage is unthinkable, and hopefully Irish eyes will be smiling tomorrow.