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Schmidt's side can really pack a huge punch: Ferris

By Luke Baker

Ireland's failures at previous World Cups are well-documented, but former international Stephen Ferris believes they are primed to put past disappointments behind them and potentially lift the trophy.

The men in green have never reached the semi-finals, being eliminated at the quarter-final stage on five occasions, but head into this year's tournament having won back-to-back Six Nations.

Back-rower Ferris, who retired from rugby in 2014 after a long-standing ankle injury, played in the 2011 World Cup where Ireland eliminated by Wales in the last eight, but current coach Joe Schmidt has instilled a consistency of performance in his troops that has them among the favourites for the trophy this time around.

And Ferris insists their intimidating front eight are more than capable of setting a platform for success.

"The pack is Ireland's greatest strength if they use it the way Joe wants them to use it," said Ferris, who was helping to promote SSE's joint sponsorship of ITV's coverage of Rugby World Cup 2015.

"That is getting the ball to the scrum-half out of the scrum or a line-out, getting the running game going with Ian Madigan, Robbie Henshaw and of course the mighty Johnny Sexton pulling the strings.

"It all stems from the pack. If your pack beats the opposition pack you win the game.

"I really do think Ireland have a massive chance at this World Cup. Playing in 2011 we just didn't turn up in the quarter-final against Wales. It was a very disappointing day for us and something that I regret and hopefully this time round they won't slip up.

"I believe with the influence of Joe Schmidt and the characters they have in the squad, they won't slip up and given the opportunity they will take it. This is definitely Ireland's best chance."

Ireland are in Pool D alongside France, Italy, Canada and Romania and will begin against Canada at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday September 19.

Before then, Schmidt will have to cut his squad down to 31 players by August 31 and a warm-up game against Wales in Dublin next weekend will be the last chance to impress.

That clash will also be Paul O'Connell's last home Test match, with the legendary lock retiring after the World Cup and Ferris is desperate for O'Connell to go out by making history.

"He epitomises what Irish rugby has been about for the last 10 years," added Ferris.

"I've had the privilege of playing under him as captain and alongside him in World Cups and Six Nations. I've got so much respect for the guy.

"I hope he stays injury-free, but I know it's easier said than done with the game he plays. If he stays injury-free in this World Cup he could take Ireland to a final or semi-final, somewhere they've never been before and make history."

Meanwhile, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has picked a strong pack that is close to first choice in the hope of outmuscling England once again in tonight's World Cup warm-up match in Paris (8.00pm).

Les Bleus lost 19-14 at Twickenham last weekend yet still left an impression on Stuart Lancaster's side, particularly in the final quarter.

"When you play England, if you do not win the collisions then it starts to get complicated. We know that we need to be strong in our impact," Saint-Andre said.

"We also worked a lot on capitalising on our line breaks because at Twickenham last Saturday we managed seven but lacked patience." Elsewhere, Scotland travel to take on Italy (7.00pm)

SSE is proud joint sponsor of ITV's coverage of Rugby World Cup 2015.

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