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Ireland have much to do

O'Connell claims they are a long, long way from World Cup glory

By Nick Purewal

Paul O'Connell has admitted Ireland are a "long, long way away" from winning the Rugby World Cup after last week's defeat to Wales in Dublin.

Captain O'Connell revealed the analysis session following Saturday's 16-10 home defeat to Wales laid bare the size of Ireland's challenge in chasing their best-ever World Cup campaign this month.

Ireland's veteran lock conceded "you wonder almost why you're playing any more" when coming to terms with Test match defeats and attempting to reverse fortunes.

Ireland face England at Twickenham today before opening their Pool D campaign in the World Cup by taking on Canada in Cardiff on September 19.

"I'd love to win a World Cup but it's a long, long way away now," said O'Connell.

"And I'll tell you, the Monday morning after the Wales game, when we reviewed it, it felt a long, long way away as well.

"For me I don't think there's any value in me or us getting distracted by that.

"I think the week after you lose you wonder almost why you're playing any more, and Monday was tough.

"After the Scotland game, I thought we were going to put a whole lot of things right, unfortunately we didn't and you just find out a lot about how far you have to go.

"So we need to get those things right this weekend and start building now, so winning the World Cup, it would be great but it's very much not at the forefront of my mind."

Ireland sit second in the world rankings thanks to two consecutive RBS 6 Nations titles, and hopes are high head coach Joe Schmidt's men can reach the semi-finals for the first time.

Wales coach Warren Gatland was at his mischievous best in midweek, claiming neither England nor Ireland can afford to arrive at the World Cup off the back of two straight Test defeats.

One of Saturday's sides are almost certain to do exactly that, after England lost 25-20 in Paris and Ireland slipped up to Wales.

Former Ireland coach Gatland's cute comments were not lost on O'Connell - but the skipper refused to be drawn into the war of words.

"I didn't hear what he said but he's entitled to his opinion," said O'Connell when quizzed on Gatland's comments.

"You'd love to go into the World Cup having won, but if you don't win, you just deal with it and get on with it.

"From our point of view, it's about putting together certain things that help us play well.

"We recognise those when we lose and we recognise those when we haven't done them when we win as well.

"I think even in that Scotland game, there would have been a whole lot of things we would have loved to have done better as well even though we came out the right side of the result.

"So that's the big emphasis for us as always. There's always a few things we need to do really well that leads to a big performance and we'll be eager to do those this weekend. Hopefully that leads to a big performance and also a result."

Graham Rowntree insists England can win the World Cup despite possessing a team whose best years lie two to three years in the future.

Rowntree, the Red Rose forwards coach, was responding to comments made by Rob Andrew in which the Rugby Football Union's professional rugby director stated the current squad will not reach their peak around 2017-18.

Rowntree, who declared "our World Cup starts tomorrow", accepts the squad is still early in its development cycle but does not view that as an obstacle to claiming the ultimate prize over the next two months.

"As Rob said, we know that we can win a World Cup with this group of players. And that excites me," Rowntree said.

"This team will only get better and better with experience. I can see that from working with the guys day in, day out.

"We will absolutely get better with experience and we will be become more experienced in three years' time."

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