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Time gives Flannery no answers

Jerry Flannery still struggles to understand why Ireland imploded during the 2007 World Cup.

Memories of France remain vivid for many Irish players and the experience has shaped much of the squad's preparation for New Zealand four years later. The approach this time is very different with predictions over semi-final appearances strictly off limits.

"In the last World Cup we had Namibia and Georgia in our first two pool games," said Munster hooker Flannery ahead of Ireland's opening match agains the United States on Sunday. "They were perceived to be weaker opposition but gave us an almighty scare. After the first game we were a bit shellshocked in that it had gone so badly for us."

He added: "We were never able to put decent phases together and our game plan wasn't executed at any stage. After the first game against Namibia we thought this is just a blip, but then the same thing happened against Georgia.

"By the time of our group game against France we were in bit of a panic and even more so for the Argentina game.

"If you ask me to look back at the last World Cup I still can't tell you why it was so bad. Everyone trained as hard as possible, we gave 100% and no-one ever fell in love with themselves at any stage and thought it would be easy.

"It was such a big shock for everyone in the squad. Now we must learn from those lessons and not get bitten twice. We're ambitious this time but we're concentrating on making a good start and building from there."

Ireland require a statement of intent against Eddie O'Sullivan's USA following a dismal August which saw them lose all four warm-up internationals. And while they are approaching their group campaign on a strict game by game basis, Flannery insists every player must have the conviction they are capable of winning the World Cup.

"The results last month were disappointing but we're going to try and put that right in the next few weeks," he said. "We need a win to start the tournament and lay down a marker. Hopefully we'll achieve that against the States.

"The main thing is to get out of our group. We've come out here to be ambitious. Anyone who comes here and thinks they don't have the capability of winning the tournament, shouldn't be here. But you also must be realistic and the experience of the last World Cup has taught us that getting out of the pool has to be our first target."

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