Howlett: poor form is not cause for concern
All Black legend Doug Howlett says Ireland fans should not read too much into their successive defeats to England and Wales as he believes Joe Schmidt's side can make a big impact at the World Cup.
The former Munster winger believes too much can be read into the pre-tournament form, but reckons the Six Nations champions can grow into their game over the coming months.
While Howlett reckons New Zealand can live up to their favourites tag, he says they won't fancy a quarter-final date with either Ireland or France - one of whom are likely to be their opponents in the last eight.
"Having been involved in preparation for a World Cup, what you've done beforehand doesn't count for a lot," he said.
"I remember playing for the All Blacks against Australia in a Tri-Nations game in 2003 and we put 50 points on them. That was three or four weeks before the World Cup, but they ended up beating us in the semi-final of the World Cup a few weeks later.
"I see that in this Irish team, they're working on things and as athletes it's a difficult time. You're so close, you just want to get there. You want to be at the World Cup. Indirectly, I do feel that's playing on the players' minds and now that they're in the squad and on their way I'd like to see a steady improvement leading into the pool games."
Howlett says Ireland have a chance if they come across New Zealand despite never having beaten the world champions.
"It's a wonderful panel that they're taking over and I wouldn't see the end of the road as a quarter-final with the All Blacks either," the AIG ambassador said.
"They showed a couple of years ago that they are right there with the All Blacks.
"I see them going deep into this tournament.
"They'll build in the tournament, there are some games which allow them to do that but everyone's going to be pushing for places at the same time."