Ronan O’Gara believes Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has the perfect mental approach to maximise a kind Rugby World Cup draw.
Despite Ireland never before reaching a World Cup semi-final, O’Gara is reluctant to talk up the size of the task facing Schmidt’s side.
“Ireland's draw basically means they just have to beat France and then hopefully they will have Argentina to beat and the pressure is off in many ways because they will have achieved the objective of reaching a semi-final.”
Writing in the 48-page Irish Examiner Rugby World Cup magazine, out Friday, O’Gara warns against over-thinking that challenge.
“It isn't quite that easy but beating France and Argentina is not that big a hurdle in real terms. If you try and get emotional, though, and hot and bothered about it you can overestimate what's in front of you.
“It is a great draw and nothing these players haven't achieved already in terms of beating both nations.”
And the Racing Metro coach believes Schmidt will effectively shield his players from the hype around the tournament.
“That is where Schmidt excels, in insisting on a short-term focus. He's not going to get caught up in the fanfare of a World Cup. He'll look on it as there’s a Test match against France that's got to be won and then a Test match against Argentina and that's absolutely doable.”
If Ireland do negotiate Pool D in top spot, O’Gara sees a potential Argentina quarter-final as a very winnable fixture:
“That Argentina have a young fly-half in Nicolas Sanchez is a bonus for Ireland in my opinion because he's not the solution for them at 10. He's steady but in terms of natural ability compared to other Argentine 10s down through the years, he's nowhere near the class of, say, Felipe Contepomi, and he wouldn't lace Juan Martin Hernandez’s boots.
“And he's not a good enough goal-kicker either which in the past has always been a Puma strength - the ability to kick their goals and their drop-goals.”
First, Ireland must overcome Canada, Romania, Italy and especially France, and while he sees Ireland as favourites in the crucial final pool game, O’Gara remains wary of the country where he currently makes his living.
“Ireland are going up against a French team that's never had so much time with each other. They don't have a great game-plan but they're such incredible athletes, they play for each other and with that ability, they're going to be dangerous.”