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A semi-final berth is the first target for Ireland at the Rugby World Cup later this year, IRFU performance director David Nucifora has said.
Ireland have never made it beyond the quarter-finals at the World Cup but they face a difficult path if they are to reach the last four for the first time in Japan.
The first objective is to come out on top of a pool that includes Scotland, Japan, Samoa and Russia before a difficult quarter-final, which is likely to be against either New Zealand or South Africa, but Nucifora believes Joe Schmidt's men must target a semi-final place.
"Well, I think we've got to do better than we've done before, that's the starting point, isn't it?" Nucifora is quoted as saying in the Irish Independent.
"We've got to get to a semi-final and obviously we want to go further than that if we can.
"But I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought that anything worse than a semi-final is going to be good for us.
"Hopefully we get the bounce of the ball or a bit of luck from the injury gods along the way, but we've tried to do everything we can do to prepare and like any high-level competition, you do need an element of luck along the way in those tournaments.
"So hopefully we get that but, you know, we will have felt that we have prepared really, really well and that we'll be in a good position to deliver a really good performance in this tournament."
Nucifora was appointed Performance Director in April 2014 and he will remain in the role until the end of the 2021-22 season after signing a new three-year contract.
His tenure has coincided with a period of unparalleled success for Irish rugby and he will be on hand when Andy Farrell succeeds Schmidt as Ireland head coach after the World Cup.
The former Wallaby admits that Farrell will be 'put to the test' when he takes over but he is confident he is the right man for the job.
“It’ll be different and all the things that Joe has done and left behind are not going to be lost, and that’s what we’ve really focused on," he explained.
“We’ve focused on how do we on build on this and we’re really confident that Andy is going to be able to build on what Joe has done.
“Now Andy’s a different man to Joe and he’s going to do it a different way, but one of the reasons that we recruited Andy was because, one, we believe in him as a coach and as a person, but also Andy was super keen to come here all those years ago because he wanted to work with Joe and he feels that he’s a far better coach for the time he’s had with Joe.
“He’s going to be put to the test when he takes over post the World Cup.”
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