In just under 12 months, Ireland's Rugby World Cup campaign will be up and running.

Friday marked exactly one year until Andy Farrell's side open up their account against Romania at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. The goal will be for it to last until the 28 October final at Stade de France.

Tonga, South Africa and Scotland will follow through September and into October, and should those games go according to plan, then either France or New Zealand await in the glass-ceiling game, the quarter-final, the end point in Ireland's previous World Cup marathons.

While we can't point to World Cup success, we can point to World Cup consistency. Of the nine previous editions, Ireland have seven quarter-final appearances. It's not a consistency we want to celebrate though.

A quarter-final was par for the course in 1987, 1991 and 1995, but after Ireland crawled back to relevance in 2003, walked with Triple Crowns in the mid-00s, and ran with a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009, that last-eight benchmark no longer cuts it.

After being flattened in Japan in 2019, Andy Farrell has picked up the Irish squad and patched them together, to the point where they are - on the rankings at least - the best in the world. We've been down this road before.

With one URC, Champions Cup and international season to go, the next 12 months are braced to be the most important in the history of Irish rugby.

One year out from that previous World Cup, the Irish rugby landscape was broadly similar. A Six Nations Grand Slam was followed by a major Test series win in Australia, while Leinster's Pro14 and Champions Cup double ensured Ireland were dominating both the club and international scene. Within a few months Joe Schmidt's side toppled New Zealand, before sweeping the World Rugby Awards. And then 2019 happened.

The cautionary tale of 'peaking too soon' has followed any and all big wins for Ireland under Andy Farrell. And while the lack of success for Leinster ensures Irish rugby doesn't have the same gap over the pack as they did in 2018, the start of the new BKT United Rugby Championship season next week does bring a familiar feeling with it.

How do we avoid the same mistakes again?

Ireland were heavily beaten by New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup

The first step has been embracing the goal. It came as a welcome surprise in October last year to hear Johnny Sexton and Andy Farrell speak openly about how the World Cup was already a reference point in camp, after years of game-by-game focus.

In making such a public point about their long-term goal, the Irish management shone a bright light on the target. They've thrown resources at it; expanding this summer's tour of New Zealand to incorporate games against the Maori All Blacks, creating an Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa, moving Andrew Porter back across the scrum to loosehead, as well as extending the contract of head coach Andy Farrell.

With one URC, Champions Cup and international season to go, the next 12 months are braced to be the most important in the history of Irish rugby.

Across that season, there's a lot of rugby to be played. At Test level Farrell has eight games, plus a few extra warm-up matches next summer to fine tune his squad before the World Cup. And despite their position atop the world rankings they have plenty of areas to work on.

Porter is still ironing out the creases of his switch from tighthead to loosehead, which has seen Ireland and Leinster's scrum run into trouble at times in the last 12 months.

Some players need to find form, but for others the next year is about maintaining form. In the last 12 months Josh van der Flier has gone from being on the fringe of the Ireland squad to arguably the best openside flanker in the game

Ireland's first Test defeat to New Zealand last summer shows once again that they are just one Sexton injury away from struggling, and while Joey Carbery produced in patches for both Munster and Ireland last season, the out-half is in desperate need of a strong, settled season in both red and green.

Of all the variables that can strike in a World Cup year, injury is the biggest. At this week's launch for the URC season in Slough, three of the four Irish representatives spoke of their return from surgery in the off-season; Andrew Conway had a troublesome knee operated on, Jack Carty had surgery on his wrist, while Iain Henderson used the summer to get another operation on his thumb.

Connacht captain Jack Carty will be hoping to stay in Test contention this season

For all three, the procedures were on issues they had been carrying for some time. And for all three, their outlook on returning was the same; they won't be rushing back. Henderson even suggested he could in theory be able to play inside the next fortnight, but after a year hampered by a number of injuries, he's thinking long term.

Some players need to find form, but for others the next year is about maintaining form. In the last 12 months Josh van der Flier has gone from being on the fringe of the Ireland squad to arguably the best openside flanker in the game, winning the European Player of the Year award and making himself one of the frontrunners for World Player of the Year.

How does he stay at that level, never mind extending his ceiling?

"I think setting long term goals is good," Van der Flier told RTÉ Sport at this week's BKT United Rugby Championship launch.

"Having something in the back of your mind, for me it could be starting the big games harder, earlier in the season, but there's motivation to stay ahead of the people, my competition for places. And then taking the confidence from how last year went, and trying to bring that into the season to go to a new level.

"Also, I try and be careful not to... I was fortunate enough last year to pick up a few awards, but I want to try to not get big-headed, or think or yourself more, just trying to stick to what's worked, and try and improve different things.

"I'm quite hard on myself in many ways. Even when things go well, I think I could have done this a lot better, or my ruck wasn't good enough, or I'm not contributing to the game in one are. Having that attitude, trying to keep that up, and hopefully that'll keep me from being complacent."

The Stormers beat the Bulls in an all-South African URC final last season

With South Africa one of Ireland's World Cup opponents, the prominence of their four franchises in the URC is an added benefit to Ireland's preparations, as they get to line out more regularly against some of the players they're likely to face in France next year.

And although many of the Springbok stars play their club rugby in England, France and Japan, there are plenty of relevant Boks at the Sharks and Stormers in particular when they return from their international window in the winter.

The Boks come to Dublin in November and the unique physical challenge they present is a much-needed test to see how Ireland can cope against the bigger, more attritional outfits. Similarly, the Six Nations meeting with France in February is a huge testing ground. This incarnation of Les Bleus have won three out of three against Ireland in recent seasons, and not only are Fabien Galthie's side the World Cup hosts, they're also a potential quarter-final opponent.

All the pieces matter in World Cup year, and the next 12 months will tell us if the Irish management can put those pieces together.

Follow the 2022/23 BKT United Rugby Championship across RTÉ radio, TV, RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app.

Watch live coverage of Cardiff v Munster (16 September), Zebre Parma v Leinster (17 September), Stormers v Connacht (24 September) and Dragons v Munster (25 September) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.