O'Driscoll: Ireland can justify No.1 ranking at World Cup

O'Driscoll: Ireland can justify No.1 ranking at World Cup
Guinness shows its support for the Irish rugby team as they depart for Japan, by unveiling its new campaign as the Official Sponsors of Belief. Guinness has partnered with Ireland’s No. 1 Believer, Brian O’Driscoll to highlight the importance of belief and showcase the reasons to believe. Fans wanting to demonstrate their belief in the Irish rugby team can avail of Belief Giphys available at https://giphy.com/guinness Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Brian O'Driscoll believes Ireland can back up their World No.1 ranking by winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The 133-times capped centre says the ranking is 'nice' – but lifting the Webb Ellis Cup is the be all and end all for Joe Schmidt's men.

Ireland's win over Wales in Dublin lifted them to the top of the World Rugby rankings for the first time, leapfrogging World Cup favourites New Zealand.

“It won’t put any pressure on them,” O'Driscoll said. “It’s a nice added incentive to have as a team.

“It’s nice to tick all those boxes over the course of a few years as you’ve been climbing to prominence which is what this team have done over the past four years.

“Winning a series in Australia for the first time in years. Winning a test in South Africa. Beating the All Blacks. Another Grand Slam. The Six Nations titles.

“All those things have added up. They won’t pay that much heed to the ranking but it’s nice to say that at one point, you were part of an Irish team that was number one in the world.

“Irrespective of whether you think the rankings are right or wrong, it’s nice to be there for a few weeks heading into the World Cup.”

Following a disappointing Six Nations and their record defeat to England three weeks ago, Ireland are fourth favourites with bookmakers to lift the trophy in Yokohama in early November, but O'Driscoll is adamant they can do it.

“I absolutely think they can win it but they need a lot to go for them,” he said, announcing Guinness as the official sponsor of belief.

But on the basis of what I’ve watched in the last two years, they can win the World Cup.

“They can win that group, beat South Africa or New Zealand. It’s a big ask but they can do beat them.

“Then you’re in a semi-final against Wales or Australia or England. We’ve beaten all those teams. “So on the basis of that I do believe. It’s the first World Cup Ireland have entered that they know they have beaten all the teams in it. And there’s a confidence that comes with that.”

Research conducted by Guinness suggests most Irish fans agree with the rugby legend, with 58% of Irish adults believing the Irish rugby team can win the tournament. Ulster fans are the most optimistic at 73% with Connacht fans the lowest at 44%.

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