Ireland must rise to challenge and show a ruthless edge
Complacency shouldn't be an issue for Ireland, despite the carnival atmosphere in Cardiff ahead of their World Cup opener against the Canadians
It's hard to imagine a more exciting time for rugby players than the days before a World Cup starts. I looked at the team as they headed off on Wednesday evening and the joy on their faces said it all.
The anticipation has been building for a while, but it's finally here. Nervousness and apprehension will have replaced some of that child-like eagerness, but once the action begins their professionalism will take control.
Thinking back to my time in World Cup squads, 2003 and 2007 were most special because I was selected straight from the start - 1999 was different because I was called in to the squad as a replacement - but the buzz the final few days of preparation brings is amazing.
Playing in a World Cup is a wonderful journey. For the majority of players things don't pan out as planned, but right now, with so much hope and so many dreams, the excitement is massive.
For me, neither tournament went as I'd planned. I got injured in '03 and in '07 the whole competition was a disaster for us. But for this team I think things will be different.
They are well prepared, there is no more holding back, and we'll all soon see just what this squad have been building towards.
Ireland stuttered in the last few games with back-to-back defeats, but I think they will beat Canada comfortably.
The Canadians are not in good shape. After beating Namibia in November they then lost seven on the bounce, before they finally got back to winning ways with a win over Georgia.
That run of defeats came against teams like the USA, Samoa, Tonga, Japan and Romania. Ireland should be beating the 18th-ranked team in the world by 50 or 60 points. That's the reality of it.
But on any given day things can go wrong for you. We saw it ourselves against Namibia and Georgia in 2007 where we were almost stunned. Invariably there will be at least one massive shock in this World Cup - it cannot come against Ireland.
I honestly think that we are gone beyond that tendency to struggle to beat weaker teams. Mentally we're strong, we have a lot of characters in our side, we have a huge amount of experience and having Paul O'Connell, Eoin Reddan and Rory Best as survivors from '07 will help this group. They remember what happened when we struggled to reproduce on the big stage and they won't let that happen for a second time.
Canada must be respected though. In Jamie Cudmore they have a guy that both Munster and Leinster have come across over the years. He has a lot of experience, and he'll lead the way.
Along with Cudmore, DTH van der Merwe and Jeff Hassler are very good players. Van der Merwe scored tries against both Ulster and Munster in last season's PRO12 knock-out stages and Hassler got one in the final too, but Canada's problem is that they don't have enough lads playing in the world's top leagues.
What I would love to see is a ruthlessness about Ireland. I want them to take no pity on Canada when they get them on the rack.
I want to see the number of individual errors and missed tackles obliterated. But most of all I want to see lads performing well and staking their claim on the jersey for the games ahead.
A win is crucial, a bonus point is very important, but a convincing performance is needed.