As preparations gear up for the World Cup, three-time British & Irish Lion Paul O’Connell is adamant Ireland have learned their lessons from tournaments past.
O’Connell was part of the Ireland squad that were considered title contenders heading into the 2007 World Cup but crashed out at the group stage.
He also played in both 2003 and 2011 when the Men in Green could advance no further than the quarter-finals.
Having lost just once in their last 12 Test matches, expectations will once again be high when Ireland get their 2015 campaign underway against Canada on September 19.
But 35-year-old O’Connell, who toured with the Lions in 2005, 2009 and 2013, insists the squad are better equipped to deal with the pressure than ever before.
“I feel very good about the World Cup and I’m really looking forward to it,” explained the lock. “I really enjoy the way we handle the expectation.
“We’re put under a lot of pressure in how we prepare for games and it kind of takes away the distraction of the bigger picture.
“I think certainly in 2007 we got engulfed in the expectation of the World Cup and we felt we had to say we had a chance of winning it to make ourselves believe it.
“One of the things we did in 2007, or I certainly did, was over-train going into it. We were given time off to allow the training to accumulate.
“I remember chatting to Donners [Donncha O'Callaghan] and Strings [Peter Stringer] and ROG [Ronan O’Gara] – we never actually took the time off.
“For World Cups, you spend all the time together in Irish camp pretty much with the rest of the players.
“You have the top players in the country, so it ends up being very, very competitive. You end up training very, very hard and if you don’t take your down time and allow the training to accumulate you can end up over-training.”
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