Rugby World Cup: Ireland can win Webb Ellis Cup says defeated Romania coach
Romania coach Lynn Howells believes Ireland can win this World Cup and backed Joe Schmidt's side to beat France in the pivotal Pool D decider in two weeks' time.
The experienced Welsh coach has seen both of the group favourites at close quarters after facing France last Wednesday and yesterday's 44-10 defeat did little to change his perspective on where the balance of power lies.
Indeed, the man who was Graham Henry's assistant at Wales reckons that Schmidt's "complete" side can take on the best in the world in the weeks to come.
"I think it's a possibility, I really do," he said when asked if Ireland can go all the way and claim the title for the first time.
"I don't see any reason why not. Especially after I watched Wales beat England which was very good on Saturday night.
"For the Irish team, I think they have all the ability. Their lineout is very good. Their scrum was solid and in the contact area, they are very well managed."
Results in other pools have muddied the waters when it comes to predicting potential routes to the final, but Ireland can be confident that topping the pool would leave them facing an impressive Argentina rather than the All Blacks.
It could all come down to that Millennium Stadium meeting with France on October 11 and Howells believes Ireland hold the edge.
"The two sides have a strength in depth," he said.
"I think Ireland have a more complete game than France. I think they are better equipped to go further in the competition. I think Ireland will win.
"From what we've done on an analysis of Ireland, I think they're pretty complete.
"I've think you've seen it over the last two Six Nations competitions, when they have to play to a high tempo, they're capable of doing it.
"If they need to close a game down, they're capable of doing it. If they need a kicking game, they have the ability to do it. I think Ireland are pretty much a complete team."
Joe Schmidt wasn't looking beyond this week's clash with Italy and he believes the return of Sergio Parisse will have a big bearing on how they play in their win-or-go-home clash.
"I do think he makes a massive difference," the Ireland coach said.
"It's similar to a couple of players that make a similar difference for us. That will be a definite challenge for us.
"Effectively, their World Cup is over if they don't win next weekend, and that is going to be a real challenge for us, particularly because they have some real quality amongst them."