With the domestic rugby season now coming to a close, all eyes are turning to international teams, with Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and co. ramping up for the World Cup later this year in France.
The tournament gets underway on September 8, with a mouthwatering game between the hosts and the All Blacks at the Stade de France set to give us an idea of how two of the tournament favourites are shaping up.
The draw for the World Cup means that, should all four sides progress from their groups, we are set up for quarter-final clashes between the All Blacks and France on one side, and Ireland and defending champions South Africa on the other.
All four sides are being heavily tipped to go all the way but, if world number one Ireland are to taste the ultimate glory and claim the World Cup, they will have to overcome the much-discussed and much-maligned "quarter-final curse."
Ex-Springbok Schalk Brits has given his two cents on Ireland's infamous inability thus far to progress past the last eight of the World Cup - and says that the central issue for Andy Farrell's team will be the belief that the curse will give to opposition teams.
Ireland: Schalk Brits slams World Cup chances
Brits, who won the World Cup with South Africa in 2019, spoke to the RugbyPass Offload podcast this week, and was asked about how he felt about the Boks going up against Ireland in the pool stages of the World Cup.
Brits said that he felt Ireland would be an immensely tough game, but said that Ireland's tendency to lose out when it came to the quarter-final stage could give opposition teams belief deeper in the tournament - and pose uncomfortable questions for Andy Farrell:
Ireland is going to be a toughie. Group stages...I think the focus will be on dominating the ruck. That will always be the focus, starving them on ball. Ireland, Leinster, Munster, Ulster - when they keep the ball...they don't play an expansive game but the structure they play is extremely good.
I'd still back our boys.
Ireland specifically, it's just weird. They've never performed in a World Cup. I think, from our perspective, that belief will keep there until it's proven different. They've always been great between World Cups, but when a World Cup comes...
Unfortunately, belief is hard to change within a group.
I hope Ireland and South Africa go through to the semis.
It's an intriguing perspective on a much-debated element of Ireland's World Cup chances, with the perspectives of other teams taken into account.
Of the ten sides in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, Ireland and Italy remain the only countries never to have reached a World Cup semi-final - but, with the Irish team sitting at the top of the world rankings after a Grand Slam win and a test series victory in New Zealand, they have likely never been better placed to amend that record than they will be this year.
Brits also commended the performance of Munster in Saturday's URC Grand Final, saying the South African rugby-watching public is in shock at the result, and that he was in disbelief at their ability to win three away games on the bounce in the URC playoffs:
As a supporter, we all thought "oh my goodness."
What kind of team can go Glasgow-Leinster-Cape Town and still come out on top? That was a phenomenal three or four games from them. From that perspective, I couldn't believe it. They [Munster] were the better side on the day. Fair play to them.
[In South Africa] we're all shocked. We haven't beaten Munster once - but everybody thought, 'nobody can go three games away, having beaten Leinster' - that is so hard.
Everybody - myself included - thought Munster had a great side, Graham Rowntree has only improved through this season, Munster have improved through this season. Their kicking game was superior, their error rate was almost zero, it was just great from the boys from Munster.