Ireland have now painted a huge target on their own backs, and they must relish in that according to former Lions hooker Keith Wood.
The All Blacks have long been the yardstick for rugby success on the international stage. While they share the most World Cups with South Africa at three apiece, the Springboks have never been anywhere near as globally dominant as the men from New Zealand.
However, that might be about to change, as Ireland return home from a historic first ever test series victory on New Zealand soil.
The historic moment was achieved on Saturday, July 16th in Wellington, when Johnny Sexton's side triumphed in the third test of the series, backing up a superb second test performance for the tourists.
While former Leinster head coach Matt Williams heralded it as the 'greatest Irish sporting achievement', many other sports fans have diminished the achievement to being 'just a friendly'. Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood was having none of that.
Speaking on Monday Night Rugby, Wood expressed his delight at the state of Irish rugby at the moment off the back of the historic tour of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
"We shouldn't fear anyone," Wood said. "We shouldn't fear ourselves either. Ourselves being the not great performance in the first match, we shouldn't fear that we are able to turn that around.
"That's one of the things I really liked. The structure of this tour was so bloody awkward, horrible and hard that it mirrors what a World Cup is like.
"I take an awful lot from it, and I do think a lot is different because of that."
Ireland must enjoy the target on their backs
Critics o the Irish rugby team as well as non-rugby supporters have pondered why so much has been made of the historic test series, as they see the matches as 'just friendlies'. This criticism would not sit well with Wood.
"It drives me absolutely mad!" Wood said. "I've heard people saying that 'they are only friendly matches', which just gives a fairly high lack of understanding of what touring in rugby has been for over 100 years.
"The magnitude of what has been done is truly extraordinary! It is for a moment in time. My sons were asking me at the final whistle why I was so excited. I said, 'because it is history'.
"Watching history unfold in front of you is pretty phenomenal, especially when it is going your way."
Just over 13 months out from the World Cup in 2023, Ireland have officially become World Number One on the World Rugby rankings.
This is the very same position that Ireland held a year out of the last World Cup. However, Wood does not feel that this current team will succumb to the same fate that the previous one did.
"The players have to enjoy it," Wood said. "It has put a huge target on their back and I would hope that this particular group would relish that target.
"Who is to say it's the peak? We just know that this is the highest level that they are at at the moment. Who is to say that that's the Everest of this group?"
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