Expectations for a successful Irish Rugby World Cup may have been dampened by Ireland's form. While we're hopeful that Schmidt can get the team to come good, outsiders fancy O'Connell's men a little more than we do.
In fact, Ireland have made such an impression on World Rugby that the New Zealand Herald have taken notice. The Kiwi paper don't usually look beyond the All Blacks or South Africa - so this marks quite a nod to Ireland's Six Nations triumphs.
The NZH asked their writers for their World Cup winners, and Chris Rattue selected the boys in green:
Ireland. This is a wild guess but it would be wonderful to see them break the old order. They have plenty of runs on the board, including the closest thing to a first-ever victory over the All Blacks two years ago.
For clarity, the other six pundits had five picks for New Zealand, while one plucked for England.
I don't think I've picked a winner in seven attempts so far so, using that theory, let's plump for England.
How credible is Rattue's opinion? Well he's also gone for Nehe Milner-Skudder to be the star of the tournament. Which some of you may be going "Who?", but I'm loving - especially considering that I plucked for the hotstepper in our predicted team of the tournament.
Does this mean that Ireland will win? Possibly not, but there's a reason why we're being considered - so let's focus on the positives. It's going to be a great six weeks.
And just as an aside, we decided to have a quick look to see what else Rattue was writing about today and this stopped us in our tracks.
Sure, Fergus McFadden is decent backup but it's going a bit far to criticise Joe Schmidt for selecting either Kearney ahead of him. Our initial surprise was tempered somewhat by the fact that he's talking about Steve Kearney and Andrew McFadden who are New Zealand rugby league coaches.
Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE