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James Crombie/INPHO Lancaster celebrates Saturday's win with Jordan Larmour.
# success breeds success
Lancaster: 'Ireland have an exceptional chance at next year's World Cup'
The Leinster senior coach says this summer’s tour of Australia will be a real marker for Ireland ahead of a big 18 months.

THE SKY IS the limit for this Leinster team, and as the province stand tall over the rest of Europe, the good times keep rolling for Irish rugby at the end of a perfect season which has exceeded all expectations.

And Stuart Lancaster, Leinster’s senior coach, believes Ireland have an ‘exceptional chance’ of building on this year’s dominance at international and provincial level by winning next year’s World Cup.

Speaking after Leinster’s Guinness Pro14 final victory over Scarlets on Saturday, Lancaster lavishly praised the instrumental Johnny Sexton as the best player he has ever coached, but it’s Ireland’s strength across the board and all-round ability under Schmidt which gives them a great chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time.

“I think Ireland have got a really good chance, an exceptional chance,” Lancaster said.

“The thing about a World Cup is it’s one-off games. I think the tour for these boys going to Australia is a big marker for them.”

Certainly with Sexton hitting the prime of his career, Ireland appear to have all the attributes to challenge in Japan.

“But its not just about the out-half, is it? It’s about the team and what Ireland have got is a very good coaching team and a very good collective team,” Lancaster, who coached England at the last World Cup, added.

“That’s why they have a real chance in the World Cup.”

The Ireland squad convene in Carton House this week ahead of their departure for the summer tour of Australia, which — as Lancaster pointed out — will be a firm examination of their credentials, 18 months out from the World Cup.

As for Leinster, the curtain has drawn on a dream campaign which saw them become the first side to claim a domestic and European double, but already Leo Cullen and Lancaster are turning their attention to next season and how they can get even better.

When asked how much better this all-conquering side can get, Lancaster said:  “Well, just look at the players that didn’t play. Robbie Henshaw, Josh van der Flier, Sean O’Brien, Fergus McFadden, Dave Kearney all didn’t play and there is more.

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“Who is finishing? Isa. With new players coming through and the hunger and ambition to get better…everything starts from zero next season but there is an exceptional group of players here.”

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Watch: Larmour’s pick up a lá Campese and the rest of the Pro14 final highlights

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