Ireland’s World Cup bid may have gone slightly off the rails against Namibia last weekend but not enough for veteran winger Denis Hickie to alter his hopes for success on French soil.
The Irish failed to start the tournament on a high note as they allowed the world’s 24th-ranked side to hit back at them during the second half of their 32-17 victory in Bordeaux.
Namibia ripped Ireland’s plans for a morale-boosting opening to shreds, but amidst all the criticism of the display, the fact that his team still took a maximum five points from the game despite failing to fire gives Hickie the confidence that they will get things right in the coming weeks.
“After the Namibia game there were was no sense that the tactics had gone wrong or the preparation had gone wrong,” said the Leinster stalwart.
“That was all very good. Instead, as individuals, we were very poor – we produced 39 turnovers which is more than double in any other international.
“The guys are very keen to put things right. We’re conscious that a lot of fans have come over to France to watch us and there are high expectations. We like that, we can use that energy, but we must pay their support back. We are a lot better than we have shown recently.”
Some pundits believe Ireland’s lacklustre outing against Namibia has put them out of the reckoning as true World Cup contenders but Hickie and his team-mates do not see it that way – they still have their sights set on lifting the Webb Ellis Cup next month.
“It’s typical that us saying we want to win the World Cup is now being used as a stick to beat us. We said we want to win it and when we start playing badly, everyone tells us we’re not going to win the World Cup,” he said.
“It’s a very Irish thing to do. We are ambitious and aren’t in the competition to reach a quarter-final. We have to say we want to win it. It’s part of the Irish psyche to hide your lights under a bushel, but there comes a time when you can’t kid people.
“We have to say this is what we’re aiming for. If people want to use our ambition as a stick to beat us, there is nothing we can do about it. We don’t regret being ambitious because if weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly.”
Hickie is one of 14 players retained from the team that started against Namibia and he knows another bad performance against Georgia tomorrow and coach Eddie O’Sullivan could give many of his first choice players the chop. The wide man admitted: “We are under no illusions – if you don’t play well then you have to take what is coming to you. It’s fantastic that Eddie has given us another chance.”