Lions tourist Tommy Bowe reckons Ireland must claim southern hemisphere glory this month to prove their 2011 World Cup credentials.
Ireland began their preparations for the daunting summer tour to New Zealand and Australia with a home defeat to the Barbarians in Limerick on Friday night.
The Emerald Isle have never beaten the All Blacks while it is 31 years and counting since their last away triumph was recorded over the Wallabies.
But star wing Bowe, who starts against the All Blacks having been rested for the showdown with the Babaas, has thrown down the gauntlet to his team-mates ahead of the gruelling three-Test tour after insisting only wins will be good enough as the countdown to the World Cup hots up.
“We have to make sure we play well and get some results on the tour looking ahead to the World Cup in 16 months time,” said Bowe, who started all three Tests for the Lions this time last year.
“We were happy last autumn with the Australia draw after coming from behind and it was also great to beat the world champions South Africa.
“But, realistically, if we want to be considered as serious contenders at the World Cup, we have to pick up some wins away from home this summer.
“It will be a difficult tour but it’s a great opportunity for us. I can’t wait.”
Bowe has starred for both club and country this season and capped off a fine campaign with the opening try in the Ospreys’ 17-12 Magners League Grand Final triumph over Leinster the weekend before last.
But the Player of the Year in both Ireland and Wales, who also scooped the 2010 Six Nations accolade, has brushed off any thoughts of joining regional colleague Shane Williams by adding the World crown to his impressive CV.
“That would be the pinnacle of anyone’s career. Shane was a deserved winner of the title in 2008 but you only have to look at the likes of Brian O’Driscoll who haven’t won it,” added Bowe.
“That shows I am a long way off at the moment but of course it is something that anyone would want to achieve.”
Bowe’s touchdown at the Royal Dublin Showgrounds was the 19th of a memorable season.
Not content with a successful invidual Lions tour last summer, Bowe enhanced his reputation as a clinical finisher by smashing Williams’ Ospreys try-scoring record in a season by six. But the popular Ulsterman insists there is plenty more to come.
“I’d like to think I have more to offer. I feel I am still learning and being at the Ospreys is really bringing the best out of me.
“It was special to win a trophy with the Ospreys but, even so, I have a lot more to give.”