Ireland head coach Andy Farrell insists there is “no point turning up” to the Rugby World Cup in France without ambitions of claiming the ultimate prize.
Farrell has already helped his side scale new heights, having masterminded last summer’s unprecedented tour success in New Zealand.
Ireland rose to the top of the world rankings on the back of that historic triumph and have remained there ever since thanks in part to an autumn win over world champions South Africa and a Six Nations grand slam.
Yet they have never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage of the sport’s premier competition and, despite prolonged impressive form and an eye-catching brand of rugby, face a tough task to snap that statistic.
Ireland must negotiate arguably the tournament’s trickiest group – containing the Springboks and Scotland – and will then likely need to defeat either hosts France or the All Blacks in Paris in order to secure a maiden last-four berth.
Farrell regularly champions a no-excuses mentality and has urged his players to have unwavering belief as they bid to lift the Webb Ellis Cup at Stade de France on October 28.
Asked if Ireland are targeting the trophy, he replied: “Why wouldn’t we?
“There’s an attitude within the group that we chase every day to make sure we’re better as a team, better as individuals.
“But what we’ve done in the past adds to a little bit of belief, how we are pushing to get better.
“We’ll be judged in the coming weeks but the confidence that we hope to have going into a World Cup has to be rock solid.
“There’s no point turning up for a World Cup if we don’t believe we can win it.”
Ireland have beaten each of their major rivals since Farrell succeeded Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
They launch their campaign against rank outsiders Romania in Bordeaux on September 9 before taking on Tonga in Nantes a week later.
Paris showdowns with South Africa and Scotland will then provide far sterner tests as Pool B reaches its climax.
Ireland travel to the tournament on a 13-match winning streak, with away defeats to New Zealand and France the only blemishes during a remarkable run of 25 victories from 27 Tests stretching back to February 2021.
Farrell, who was assistant to Schmidt between 2016 and 2019, is striving for perfection and has an unrelenting desire for improvement.
“We have to keep evolving as a team,” said the 48-year-old Englishman. “I’m not saying we’re tinkering with things all the time but we have to keep evolving.
“And I know that this is a broken record but it’s the truth: no part of our game is anywhere near good enough.
“It’s not and nor will it be really, ever. We’re all striving for perfection, we’re all striving to reach our potential.
“It’s being able to roll with the punches and be at your best with whatever a Test match throws at you. Every single area of our game isn’t where it could be, isn’t where it needs to be.”