Ireland's James Ryan believes that the Irish rugby team wants to do everything to make fans watching at home 'proud' of the team at the Rugby World Cup this year.
Andy Farrell's side heads into the World Cup ranked number one in the world and is considered by many to be one of the favourites to win the Webb Ellis Trophy this year.
After beating New Zealand away for the first time, winning a first home Grand Slam this year, and beating every side they have faced since then, it's fair to say that excitement for the Rugby World Cup has only grown with each passing week.
The problem for Ireland, though, is that they have never got past the quarter-final stage of the tournament since its inception in 1987.
Defeats in 2019, 2015, and 2011 still linger in the memory of fans and former players. In 2019, hosts Japan pulled off one of the most significant upsets in Rugby World Cup history by defeating the second-ranked Ireland 19-12 in Shizuoka.
Farrell, who has instilled a different mentality in the 2023 version of the Ireland team, spoke recently about 'there being no point in turning up if Ireland didn't believe they could win the World Cup.'
Ireland's ability to overcome every obstacle they have faced has not only been led by Farrell himself but also by star out-half Johnny Sexton, Munster's Peter O'Mahony, and the likes of second-row forward James Ryan.
Ryan, who has played for Ireland 55 times and won everything in a green jersey except the Webb Ellis Trophy, sat down with The Irish Post in April to discuss the upcoming rugby tournament, which starts this week.
James Ryan on Ireland's 'belief' heading into a World Cup
Ireland will play Romania this coming Saturday, and it is widely expected that the Boys in Green will start Pool B with a win. However, the other sides in the pool will provide a sterner test for Ireland and Ryan.
Throughout the pool stages, Ireland will play the likes of Tonga (September 16), current World Cup holders South Africa (September 23), and a well-known side in Scotland in their final game (October 7).
Ryan, who played a vital role in helping Ireland become one of the best sides in world rugby, feels that Ireland's statement wins under Farrell will give the team added belief heading into the tournament.
However, he does acknowledge that Ireland will have to get better if they want to become world champions this year.
"I think over the last couple of years as a group, our belief has grown because we have had some big wins. We have won some triple crowns, we have had some big wins in that season in November as well. Obviously, as well, we went to New Zealand and won a series over there. Again we had success in November, and obviously we have done well in the Six Nations just gone," he said in April.
"The point I'm trying to make is that there's a lot of belief in the squad, and we have won some big games, and our confidence has grown off the back of that.
"It's just knowing that when we are at our best, we can match anyone. That's a big one, but at the same time, it's a group that we know we have to get better every day. Especially when you are playing a World Cup, everyone is going to be better than they were, but we have to keep pushing it and driving it. Our belief is definitely at a point where it's great, but we have to keep improving.
James Ryan on Ireland's attempts in getting past the quarter-finals
If Ireland do manage to get out of their pool, they face the daunting task of facing either three-time winners New Zealand or hosts with an Antoine Dupont-inspired France in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Ireland has beaten both sides before, but they will have to do it again depending on whether they finish first or second in the pool.
Despite this, Ryan is laser-focused and only believes that Ireland should concentrate on getting out of their pool first before even thinking about one of those sides.
"Yeah, it's a tough pool. Romania, South Africa, Tonga, and Scotland. The South Africa game will be tough, so will the Tonga game. So the first big one is getting out of the pool," he added.
"The Scotland game will also be another test. So I think it will be silly to look past them. Our big focus is getting out of the pool and then going from there."
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) May 19, 2022
James Ryan on making Irish fans 'proud'
It's understandable to get excited about the best Irish rugby team the country has ever had. 18 months ago, when asked about the World Cup, the chatter about winning the tournament for the first time was quickly brushed aside by former players, fans, and pundits.
Now there is cautious optimism around Ireland's chances in France. Ireland is 5/1 to win the tournament, while New Zealand, being New Zealand, are the bookies' favourites to win a fourth crown.
Ryan remained steadfast in his opinion that there was no point in getting ahead of themselves before a ball has even been kicked into touch. He did, however, admit that the team would do everything they could to make Irish fans watching in France and abroad 'proud' this autumn/winter.
"To be honest, there's no point in me even talking about the World Cup. We can talk about how we can win the World Cup, and that would be getting out of our pool first and then getting past the quarter-final, so we have a long way to go," Ryan said.
"But yeah, the support from the Irish people means so much, and that's what it's all about. We spoke about doing it in the Six Nations. That's what drives us. We want to do everything we can to get the Irish people behind us and make them proud."
James Ryan on what a World Cup win would mean
As mentioned earlier, Ryan has won everything in a blue (Leinster) and almost everything in a green jersey (Ireland), except the World Cup.
Despite the success in New Zealand and the home Grand Slam, the 27-year-old was asked where it would rank in terms of career achievements. Ryan answered rhetorically, "If we won the World Cup," "It would be clear and above top if we won the World Cup. That's the pinnacle, isn't it? There's nothing comparable to it.
Ireland's first Rugby World Cup game against Romania starts at 2.30 pm on Saturday, September 9.