Ireland require steely nerve for Rugby World Cup joy: Shane Horgan
Ireland must conquer the "step-up in psychological pressure" to become genuine World Cup contenders, according to Shane Horgan.
Former British and Irish Lions wing Horgan believes Joe Schmidt's men "have the capacity" to win autumn's World Cup - but only if they hold their nerve.
The ex-Leinster and Ireland battering ram is confident back-to-back RBS Six Nations titles can hand head coach Schmidt's men an edge in England.
Horgan admits, however, that Ireland must scale the mental hurdle of contesting what would be a first World Cup semi-final.
"I think Ireland have the capacity to win the competition," Horgan said. "If you look at the potential draw they have, they've got one big northern hemisphere game against France.
"That would put them into a quarter-final against Argentina, then it could be a semi-final against England.
"But you have to frame that against the fact that Ireland have never been to the semi-final before. It's uncharted territory."
The 65-cap wing was part of the 2007 World Cup "disaster" where Ireland failed to reach the knock-out stages, which sowed the seed for Eddie O'Sullivan's departure.
"We went into that World Cup expecting big things and it ended in disaster," said Horgan. "So you have to be able to deal with the psychological side of things.
"Our team in 2007, we won a number of Triple Crowns, but we hadn't won a championship. This team do have those kinds of championship wins though.
"So you would think they would be able to deal with it well, but there is a step-up in psychological pressure that comes with the World Cup.
"It's a different kind of pressure and it's one they've got to handle."