Wood: Irish failure to go beyond quarters embarrassing
Keith Wood has described Ireland's repeated failure to progress beyond the World Cup quarter-finals as "a horrible and embarrassing statistic".
But with 100 days to go before rugby 's eighth global spectacular kicks off at Twickenham, Ireland's standing has arguably never been higher in a World Cup year.
They have won the last two RBS 6 Nations Championship titles under coaching mastermind Joe Schmidt and also beaten southern hemisphere heavyweights South Africa and Australia during his reign, suggesting they could finally mount a concerted challenge on the World Cup stage.
Ireland are drawn in the same pool as France, Italy, Canada and Romania, and Wood believes a semi-final appearance should be the minimum target for a squad that has made significant strides under Schmidt's astute direction.
And such an achievement would contrast starkly with previous Irish World Cup performances that realised five quarter-final exits, one quarter-final play-off defeat and a failure in 2007 to even progress beyond the pool stage.
Former Ireland captain Wood experienced last-eight elimination twice and one play-off demise when that additional knockout phase was used in 1999.
"It is a horrible and embarrassing statistic," said Wood.
"There are times when we should have gone beyond the quarter-finals, but I think as a team and country in the professional era, we are probably more mature at this stage.
I think the structures are probably right for us to have a bit of a tilt at it this time. Joe seems to have the big view always, while still keeping a very keen eye on the one game at a time mantra."