Horgan: All about France
Former hero believes Ireland can make World Cup semis
Former international Shane Horgan sees Ireland's success or failure at the World Cup hinging on what happens at The Millennium Stadium on October 11.
"The whole focus is going to be on the France Pool game. There will be a huge amount of pressure on it," he said.
Horgan is able to call on personal experience and objective evidence to support his belief that Ireland can make their first semi-final.
"The comparison I can draw is when we played Argentina in the group stages in Adelaide back in 2003.
"I think this Irish team is quite a bit better than that French team.
"I thought we were quite a bit better than Argentina. But, when the pressure comes on, you end up making silly decisions or taking the wrong options.
"That's what pressure does. It makes you do uncharacteristic things that can have a huge impact."
Horgan is convinced Ireland have the temperament, the experience and the international form.
"They'll have to be aware of what it takes to beat France and implement that no matter what," he said.
The factor of France having proper preparation time without the interference from their clubs could lead to a transformation.
"I don't buy this idea of France, all of a sudden, being a brilliant team at the World Cup.
"Consistently over the last two years, the same French team has turned up the whole time.
"The amount of really good performances they've had over the last two years: Have they had one? Have they had two?"
He alludes to the involvement of coach Joe Schmidt in honing Ireland's finer points.
"I don't think France will take such a massive jump that it will take them passed Ireland.
"You have to remember that the Irish will have a really intense time of, not just training, but skill work.
"I think their skill levels have dropped over the last two years and, maybe, that has something to do with Joe not seeing them every day.
"I am really confident we can top our group and do better than any other Irish team before.
"Don't forget, these players have won so much. The last time we had this level of expectation was in 2007.
"But, the difference this time is that the players have won so much more.
"They have won two Six Nations back-to-back. They are use to playing under high pressure and coping with it "