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Hickie keeps the faith in World bid

By Gavin Mairs

Denis Hickie believes Ireland can still win the World Cup - despite their alarming loss of form.

Having limped to a flattering 32-17 victory over African minnows Namibia, Eddie O'Sullivan's side will aim to blast away the shackles that have hindered them since the end of last season's Six Nations Championship.

Nothing less than a bonus-point victory is required against the physical Georgians, who proved more than a handful for Argentina on Tuesday night.

Hickie was fortunate to have held onto his place following the return of Shane Horgan, with Andrew Trimble, who has shown much better form, dropping out having suffered a broken finger in the victory over Namibia.

And while he admits a dramatic improvement is required if Ireland are to even get out of their pool, he believes the side can turn it around in time.

"We said we want to win it and when we start playing badly, everyone tells us we're not going to win the World Cup," said Hickie.

" It's a very Irish thing to do. We are ambitious and aren't in the competition to reach a quarter-final. We have to say we want to win it. It's part of the Irish psyche to hide your lights under a bushel, but there comes a time when you can't kid people.

"We have to say this is what we're aiming for. If people want to use our ambition as a stick to beat us, there is nothing we can do about it. We don't regret being ambitious because if weren't, we would not be doing our jobs properly."

Hickie however conceded it was the players - not the management team - who did not do their job properly during the shambolic performance against Namibia.

And having been given a second bite of the cherry, the Leinster star, who is set to retire at the end of the tournament, said the players were ready to repay their coach.

"The coach can only tell you so much about what to do - if you can't hold onto the ball and start making bad decisions, there is nothing the management can do about it," added Hickie.

"We played like a team that is inexperienced rather than one that has been together a long time. We're very annoyed with ourselves.

" We are no under illusions - if you don't play well then you have to take what is coming to you. It's fantastic that Eddie has given us another chance.

"Mind you, he would have had to drop the whole team if he was punishing people for their mistakes because we all played badly. We must improve.

"The guys are very keen to put things right. We're conscious that a lot of fans have come over to France to watch us and there are high expectations.

Meanwhile, Andrew Trimble is set to be fit for Ireland's crunch game against France at the Stade de France on September 21.

France and Ireland will provide the first genuine tests for Australia's new rugby coach when the Wallabies' domestic Test programme kicks-off next year. Australia's busy 2008 schedule begins with a one-off Test against the Irish in Melbourne on June 14.

Belfast Telegraph


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