Rugby World Cup 2015: Ireland ready to take on the world, says Rory Best
Ulster captain Rory Best feels that the Ireland squad will have no problems coping with the weight of expectation at this autumn's World Cup.
With a series of four warm-up games beginning next weekend, and having secured consecutive Six Nations crowns, anticipation is mounting ahead of the tournament but the 83-times-capped hooker believes the squad are insulated against such pressures.
"You're coming off the back of back-to-back Six Nations championships, of course you're going to be a fancied team," he said last night at the launch of his province's new jersey.
"The way we're looking at it, people can talk whatever way they want, we know what we need to get right to even be in that ballpark and that's what we're working on at the minute.
"We need to get stuff right, we're doing things as professionally as we can and we're not cutting any corners."
Despite Ireland entering the tournament as the form side in Europe, the favourites still reside south of the equator but Best believes it will be imperative not to be in awe of the SANZAR sides.
"I think the important thing is that we don't overestimate the talent that there is in the southern hemisphere," he affirmed.
"I think there's a fair bit of talent in the northern hemisphere too. The last weekend of the Six Nations, if that had been produced in the Rugby Championship we'd have been talking about it for years and years.
"For me, it was a great weekend of rugby. It wasn't particularly nice waiting in the middle for a result at the end but for a rugby neutral, as a spectacle, it was outstanding."
The first challenge of the warm-up Tests sees Ireland take on Wales next Saturday in the Millennium Stadium and Best, after a gruelling pre-season, is ready to get back in the thick of the action.
"There's only so much you can replicate on the training pitch and in fitness games compared to what it's going to be like in the Millennium Stadium in front of 80,000 with a closed roof."
While other sides have taken their preparation abroad, including next weekend's opponents whose training squad travelled to Doha, Joe Schmidt has kept his side at home, taking camps to Galway and Cork as well as their base at Carton House, but Best is reticent to endorse either method until we see who is lifting the trophy on the final day of October.
"People ask you to compare and contrast what we're doing to what other teams are doing but whoever wins has got it right.
"We feel we're building well but it's going to be a major step up on Saturday week from what we're doing.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere. For boys who are hoping to go to the World Cup it's a great atmosphere to put your hands up and ultimately produce a result for Ireland."
The Ophir 7s tournament will take place next weekend. Held annually since 1974, three competitions will be held over the course of two days.
Under-16s and 18s events will be staged on Friday evening before the main 12-team tournament on Saturday.
There will be activities for all the family including children's entertainment and face painting.
Today is the deadline for local clubs to submit their entries for the Ulster Bank RugbyForce initiative which provides clubs with the opportunity to win support packages to renovate and upgrade facilities.
One club will receive the top prize of £10,000 as well as a special training session with an IRFU coach and two Irish rugby stars.
There will be four additional clubs selected - one from each province - to receive £5,000. All winners will receive a signed Irish rugby jersey as well.
For more information visit facebook.com/ulsterbankrugby