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Rugby World Cup 2011
O'Driscoll remains upbeat
ESPNscrum Staff
September 2, 2011
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll prepares for his return to the Test match stage, Ireland training session, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, August 19, 2011
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll is talking up his side's hopes of success in New Zealand © Getty Images
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Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll insists that he and his team-mates are in a confident frame of mind ahead of their opening Rugby World Cup clash in spite of their wretched recent run of form.

The Irish lost all four of their tournament warm-up matches, a sequence of results which saw them drop to eighth in the IRB world rankings. Consequently, a side that at the start of the year had been tipped to challenge Australia for top spot in Pool C is now expected to face a dog fight with Italy for the runners-up berth. However, O'Driscoll claims that spirits remain high in the Irish camp and he believes the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam winners remain capable of making a big impact in New Zealand.

"We feel confident and we're looking forward to the games," the Leinster centre said. "We're not bringing any scars from the last month with us, it's all about the start of the World Cup."

Ireland kick off their campaign against the United States in New Plymouth on September 11 before moving on to Auckland to face the Wallabies. Next up will be Russia before the potentially pivotal clash with the Azzurri.

While most will focus on the games against Australia and Italy, O'Driscoll knows only too well from Ireland's struggles in France in 2007, when they laboured to victories over Georgia and Namibia, that they can ill afford to take either the US or Russia lightly.

"Australia are ranked second in the world and are going to be huge and a very tough team to beat," the two-time Heineken Cup winner said. "But we learnt in 2007 that there are no pushover Test matches. We had it hard against a couple of lesser-known international nations. We certainly won't be taking anything for granted. We'll focus on our first game and take it from there."

O'Driscoll's comments were echoed by his coach, Declan Kidney, is not under-estimating any of Ireland's pool opponents.

"History has shown us there's no such thing as an easy Test match, especially when it comes to the World Cup," the former Munster boss said. "Australia will be on a high. They're Tri Nations champions and have had a good couple of weeks in the lead-up to the World Cup. But we play America first and expect them to be full on."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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