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Consistency is the key for Ireland insists Horan

By Gavin Mairs

The Ireland squad reassembled in Dublin today for the last time before their eagerly-awaited departure for France.

Although the 30-man squad do not depart for Bordeaux until Wednesday, today is regarded as the first day of their World Cup campaign as Eddie O'Sullivan's men begin their match preparations for their opening encounter against Namibia on Sunday night.

O'Sullivan, who names his starting line-up on Thursday afternoon, will be encouraged by the news on the injury front.

Shane Horgan (knee) has returned to light running while Brian O'Driscoll (fractured sinus) has also resumed more extensive training while avoiding contact.

Neither are expected to be fit in time for the opening clash, but both are on course for Ireland's second game against Georgia on September 15.

Stephen Ferris and David Wallace are both back playing full parts in training while Denis Leamy looks to have shaken off his shoulder problem.

And the sense of focus and urgency in the squad is now palpable.

Following the disappointing performance in the narrow and controversial victory over Italy, Ireland prop Marcus Horan says the squad are determined to iron out the inconsistencies that have dogged the side's pre-season campaign.

"It's important we try to put things right, but from a personal point of view it is disappointing that we haven't got that level of consistency in terms of building on it when we do have a good game," said Horan.

"That's important from our point of view. There are certain games you are very disappointed with, then you go out next time and it goes well and everyone is slapping each other on the back and saying how great you are.

"You have got to build on the positives as well as working on the negatives and that is something that I would be personally disappointed with, that we haven't got that level of consistency yet.

"But there's no better place to work on it than in this pack. " Everyone is talking about France and Argentina, but I would say Georgia will have some big units in their pack and will be able to scrummage so it's important we don't forget that either."

The performance of Ireland's scrum, which struggled badly against the Italians and Scotland in the first warm-up match at Murrayfield, will be key to their hopes of first getting out of their pool and then surviving in the knock-out stages.

While Namibia and Georgia should allow Ireland to work on the technical aspects, there will be no room for error against the big-scrummaging French and Argentinians.

"I think the Argies would probably be leading the way scrummaging-wise," admitted Horan.

"Our scrum is going really well. We are very happy with the way training is going and the progress we have made.

"Against Italy we obviously didn't start well, but I think it was more to do with the interpretation of the referee's call.

"We pitted ourselves well in the Six Nations too against France in the second half of the game at Croke Park and the boys did well out in the tour in Argentina. It's a place we can surprise these two teams and, hopefully, give it a good go.

"On French soil, if their scrum is under pressure, the crowd tend to turn against them so it's an important area of the game we should try to exploit."

Meanwhile, Munster may well have signed up a future World Cup winner, having secured the services of New Zealand star Doug Howlett on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 28-year-old is the latest big name to join the exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe.

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