England legend, Jonny Wilkinson, has warned that Ireland are still a dangerous outfit who cannot be written off ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
Joe Schmidt’s men were tipped as one of the favourites for the competition at the end of 2018 following their 16-9 victory over New Zealand in the Aviva Stadium in November.
However, a string of less than impressive performances and against England and Wales in the Guinness Six Nations have left Ireland further down the pecking order.
Wilkinson, who was capped 91 times for England, believes that Ireland are most dangerous when questioned.
“Ireland are dangerous as ever and we’ve seen that. One season or one group of games doesn’t change anything”, Wilkinson said at a special game of snow rugby to mark six months to the Rugby World Cup.
“What it does do is put Ireland back in that bracket of backs against the wall – everyone’s doubting you a little bit now and that’s the worst Irish team you ever want to play against.
“What they need to do is find a way to make sure it comes out at the right moments. They’re certainly not off the charts that’s for sure.”
The 39-year-old was part of the English side that claimed the Rugby World Cup title in 2003 and sees parallels between the current Welsh set-up and Clive Woodward’s winning team. However, we warned that Wales cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal in the build-up to the competition.
“You look at this Wales team and our England team in 2003 and you know they’ve won how many games on the trot now and they’ve won a Grand Slam in World Cup year, which means they’ve gone unbeaten for what has to be a year and now they’re heading in to the World Cup. There is a parallel”.
“The problem is that you feel like you’ve somehow – deep down – you’ve somehow done a lot of the work already [but] none of the work’s been done.
“If you carry on, willing to do the work, then what’s happened before matters; if you stop and rest on what’s happened, then what’s happened suddenly falls away very, very quickly”, Wilkinson warned.
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