THE INITIAL DOOM and gloom after Ireland’s defeat to England at Twickenham last weekend seems to have lifted and the growing consensus is that the real rugby lies ahead.

Disappointments against England and Wales can be used to spark the necessary improvements Joe Schmidt’s men need to make before they launch into the Pool D campaign that begins against Canada and Romania.

Paul O’Connell signs a Paul O’Connell poster at the RDS yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland break from camp today before finishing the training week with their provinces, but Schmidt and his players reconvene in Carton House on Sunday with all eyes on their tournament opener against the Canadians on 19 September.

“The last two games were pretty disappointing,” said hooker Richardt Strauss after yesterday’s open training session at the RDS. “There’s definitely stuff we have to work on, stuff we aren’t happy with.

“There’s a lot of stuff we looked at this morning (during their video session) that wasn’t nice to see, but that’s stuff to be worked on in the next couple of weeks before the Canada game.”

It was only last month that Ireland had been ranked as the second best team in the world for the first time ever following a win over Wales in Cardiff, though the following weeks have shown how quickly things can change in that regard.

Losing is, of course, never welcome in Schmidt’s group, but Strauss can see the positive side of Ireland getting an awakening over the past fortnight.

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Cian Healy cools off. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The All Blacks had theirs against Australia in the Rugby Championship decider, while the Wallabies had a ‘wake-up call’ the following weekend in the second Bledisloe Cup tie. South Africa have had a few sharp reminders of the quality around them in the past number of months, while England were stung by France last month.

The French almost lost to Scotland, Italy were hammered by Vern Cotter’s side, Wales were run close by the Italians – everyone has had it underlined to them that this World Cup will be more fiercely contested than ever.

“At least we’re going in now knowing that we have to work hard and there’s stuff to work on, that we have to be on point in everything we do.

“It’s all stuff we’ve done before. We made a lot of individual errors that we have to work on ourselves. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, it’s small stuff we have to fix. It’s right across the park but it is fixable.”

Jamie Heaslip meets Oisin Hunt from Drimnagh in Dublin. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

There has been mention of Ireland holding themselves back in these warm-ups, with an awareness of not peaking too soon, but Strauss stresses that Schmidt and his coaching staff haven’t been letting up on their usual pressure to impress.

“If you have been in camp you’d know it is pretty intense,” said Strauss. “We have only started looking at the opposition that we will come across in the World Cup now.

“We will wait and see when we get back to training for the Canada week.”

It’s not far off now.

Originally published at 6.30am

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