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Monday 5 December 2016

Leinster star Isa Nacewa: No one will care about the warm ups when the real action starts

Warm-ups will be forgotten when heat of World Cup hits

Isa Nacewa
Isa Nacewa
Diego Albanese

The defeat to Wales was a setback for Joe Schmidt.

Another to England might just enable the seeds of doubt to set in among his devoted men and grow into something that could cause problems for Ireland further down the line.

That is the perception of back-to-back losses.

The reality, for Leinster's Isa Nacewa, is an entirely different matter.

"No one remembers what happens in the warm-ups," he disagreed.

"It's not about that. It's about the first game in the World Cup.

"They are just so process-driven through the whole of the warm-up matches it doesn't really count.

"The World Cup is where they need the 'W' next to their name."

Despite the fact Ireland's campaign was ended cruelly by Wales in 2011, it stands as our best impact at the Word Cup.

This is a sad indictment of the appalling failure of every squad in the previous seven competitions to make it to the last four.

However, Ireland went to New Zealand then on the back of four warm-up losses to Scotland, France home and away and England before excelling against Australia at Eden Park in Auckland.

The Ireland 31 was due to be officially announced at lunchtime today.

From then, the slate can be wiped clean. The battle for the 15 jerseys, or the 23, can commence in earnest hence forth.

"It only starts now," said Nacewa.

"Forget about the pre-season. Forget about all the work they've done and all the warm-up matches.

"The whole of Ireland is waiting for that squad to be named.

"It's an exciting time. It's about starting from scratch. They just have to get on with it."

The history of the World Cup is littered with days when the underdog has bitten back.

There was Tonga against France in 2011. There was Fiji against Wales in 2007. There was the Samoans against Wales in 1991 and 1999.

Ireland have had to endure their own heartbreak. The Argentineans scuttled our plans for world domination back in 1999 when Diego Albanese broke our hearts in Lens.

Then, the unthinkable almost happened in 2007 when coach Eddie O'Sullivan got it all wrong.

Namibia threatened a ground-shaking shock (32-17) in Bordeaux and Georgia came even closer to lose by just four points (14-10) with Ireland looking as wobbly as a bowl of jelly.

"Every match is hard," warned Nacewa.

"You have expectations and whatever match you have it's World Cup and you don't want to trip up.

"Every World Cup someone trips up," he warned.

This time Ireland has what appears to be the perfect three-match lead-in to the France tie at The Millennium Stadium on October 11.

They ease into competition against Canada, world-ranked 18, on Saturday fortnight and Romania, world-ranked 17, eight days later.

The road gets steeper, thereafter, with the sight of familiar foes Italy on October 4, which should have them physically spot-on for the French.

"You never take any match lightly," added Nacewa.

"I don't think any nation around would consider any game to be an easy match.

"There are no second chances there."

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