Wellington - Ireland were left waiting on the fitness of hooker Rory Best after naming their team to play Wales in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday as Keith Earls dreamed of appearing in the final.
Best suffered a shoulder injury in last week's 36-6 victory against Italy in Dunedin that saw Pool C winners Ireland into the knockout phase of the tournament.
Ireland would clearly like to field an unchanged team, but while Best was included in coach Declan Kidney's starting side announced on Wednesday, he was also bracketed alongside Sean Cronin.
And it was a case of either Cronin or Damien Varley on the bench, with the question of who goes where all resting on the pace of Best's recovery.
"He made great progress and if he keeps going he'll be a chance," Kidney said of Best's propects.
Ireland will be bidding for a first World Cup semi-final this weekend in a match many pundits reckon is too close to call.
Although the Irish have won nine out of their last 12 Tests against Wales they were beaten 19-13 when the teams last met in Cardiff in the Six Nations in March.
However, Earls - who scored two tries against Italy - said: "I have a strange feeling that everything is going right in the group and everyone is so happy.
"I just keep imagining ourselves in the final, that's all I can do is imagine that and concentrate on the game, but it is a strange feeling I have.
"We owe Wales one, we were beaten this year and hopefully we'll go on and get a victory," added Earls, who said visualising success was a trick he'd learned from sports psychologists.
"When you're on a world stage you want to do well and visualise yourself being the hero, visualise the team walking around doing laps of honour and stuff like that. It's dreaming more than anything, you have to stay positive."
But Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, speaking before Earls made his comments at Wednesday's team announcement news conference, was typically pragmatic.
"Why would you even contemplate thinking about a semi-final or the prospect of a final when you've got a quarter-final this weekend?" O'Driscoll said.
"If we don't win this weekend we're on the plane home. We've got way too much respect for Wales to be looking beyond them."
Kidney, understandably, stuck with his half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Ronan O'Gara after the duo starred when united for the win over Italy, although he has proven bench cover for the pair in scrumhalf Eoin Reddan and flyhalf Jonathan Sexton.
O'Gara may be a fine controlling No 10 but doubts do still remain about the defensive side of his game.
However, Kidney dismissed suggestions Wales would target O'Gara at the Wellington Regional Stadium.
"They have quite an array of places where they can attack, I don't think they'll pick anyone in particular," Kidney said.
"It's going to be a case of everyone defending their own zone."
Wales are due to name their side on Thursday.Teams:
15 Robert Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian
O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara,
9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5
Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best/Sean
Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin/Damien Varley,
17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21
Jonathan Sexton, 22 Andrew Trimble
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