After their comprehensive 30-point dismantling of the Italian challenge yesterday, Cian Healy believes Ireland have the talent and belief to go on and win the World Cup.
“We can (win it), yeah,” said Healy. “We're capable of it, but it's just putting the right performances in and everything working out. It's something that takes a hell of a lot of work and perfection in every aspect of your game.
“There are a lot of strong teams left, but our next hurdle now is Wales,” added Healy, looking forward to Saturday's quarter-final in Wellington. “That's a huge, huge task.”
Healy was part of an Irish front-row written off as inferior before the game by Italy coach Nick Mallett but after another dominant performance, he believes Ireland's scrum has become a significant weapon.
“I'd see it as a weapon and most of our team would as well. It's something we've worked pretty bloody hard on, and you don't work hard on something not to have it as a strong point in your game. The lads, they do their kicking and their moves in the backs and that pays off, so why not us when we do our scrummaging?”
Mallett echoed Healy's belief that Ireland are capable of doing something special at this tournament.
“I don't think any team can be confident against them,” said the South African. “I thought the way they played was outstanding, they were a better side in all departments. They've got a team who can knock over anyone in that side of the draw in the quarters and the semis.”
It was Mallett's last game in charge and he revealed how Ireland coach Declan Kidney made a point of seeking him out afterwards.
“I was incredibly touched by what Declan Kidney said to me at the end,” said Mallett. “He said some incredibly kind things to me, he's an amazing gentleman and rugby is very privileged to have men like him running national sides.”
Meanwhile, Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip said that while the Irish players had agreed not to get dragged down by the Italians' strong-arm tactics, which appeared to include an attack on Healy's eye, they were also determined not to give an inch physically.
“We knew we couldn't lash back at anything, just be very patient and kind of have a poker face and we did that,” said Heaslip.
“As a pack, we knew they were going to bring it and we said if anything kicked off we were all in. Nothing kicked off but we definitely fronted up and gave our backs some good quality ball and I thought the game plan worked.
“We were good at our set-piece — we knew that was going to be a big battle. Mr Mallett basically threw a red flag in front of the lads (Irish front-row) earlier in the week and they fronted up like they have been doing for the last couple of weeks. I'm very proud of the lads.”