Former Munster and Carcasonne man Steven McMahon firmly believes Ireland will be celebrating a first Rugby World Cup crown come the end of October.
Andy Farrell’s men kickstart their campaign in Bordeaux this afternoon when they take on group minnows Romania from 2.30pm.
Last night saw tournament hosts France defeat New Zealand 27-13 to inflict a first ever pool defeat on the All Blacks.
Many consider Ireland to be among the favourites alongside the aforementioned countries and pool opponents South Africa, but McMahon believes that at this point in time - Ireland are firmly deserving of their favourites tag for the Webb Ellis Cup.
Speaking to WLR Sport, McMahon said:
“Going off what we’ve seen so far and that opening game last night, I think Ireland deserve to be considered favourites for this tournament.”
“Obviously, there’s such a long way to go but it’s seemingly impossible to think Ireland will lose to either Romania or Tonga with all respect meant to them, I think this current side will have too much for Scotland and then puts you in a position where the last pool game with South Africa isn’t necessarily a must win and the ball is in Ireland’s court.”
“The difference between this team and the lads that I grew up with is that they’re not as reliant on individual quality”, continued McMahon.
“Before, it was a big deal if Ronan O’Gara got injured or if Brian O’Driscoll wasn’t playing at his best - whereas now you have world class quality in so many different areas across the pitch and there are guys waiting in the wings of high standard international quality. I think Ireland are going into the tournament as the best team in the world, they’ll of course take it one game at a time but I genuinely believe that Ireland are the ones who will be there come the finish.”