23 May, 12:21
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
Eager to get back into the swing of things was Leinster winger Denis Hickie who, prior to the first day's training, talked about Ireland's preparations and the current feeling in the squad.
"We had our month off as we always do but everything was a bit earlier this year. It was unusual to find yourself away in mid-May because we (Ireland's first-team players) didn't have a summer tour, but it was just as unusual to find yourself back in mid June," Hickie admitted.
"The only difference with the trip to Spala was we went twice instead of once. But this week signals the start of the World Cup as far as our pre-season is concerned. We've come in with a good frame of mind."
Hickie and his fellow Triple Crown winners will head to France for the World Cup as genuine contenders and the Dubliner is not too perturbed that players and coaches from other nations have talked up Ireland's chances of success.
"It's good that expectations are high. Understandably you never know when other coaches and people involved in different teams are talking you up - you never know what the motivation is.
"But I think it's fair to say that we'll be in a good position going into the World Cup. I don't think any one has any problem with that. But everyone is very mindful of the fact that all the Southern Hemisphere teams look very strong again as they always are coming into World Cups," added the Leinster flyer who boasts a stunning strike rate of 29 tries in 58 Test matches for his country.
"We can't necessarily pick up where we left off last November (after the wins over South Africa and Australia). We have to raise our levels again because they all will have raised their levels. Although we will be among the favourites - which is a nice place to be. If expectation levels are high, so be it."
Hickie is confident that Ireland can break their duck this autumn and reach a World Cup semi-final for the first time after faltering at the quarter-final stage in both 1995 and 2003.
Even more than that, the 31-year-old winger is determined to bring home the William Webb Ellis trophy.
"Where we are right now, we have to think along those lines. I think it's very easy to hide behind generalities and say 'we're no better or worse than anyone else going in' or 'we'll be doing our best.' I don't think there is any harm in going there with a target to win it.
"I think everyone is of the frame of mind that it's not beyond us to win the World Cup so therefore it has to be in us to win the World Cup."