Italy head coach Conor O'Shea believes Ireland will usurp New Zealand as Rugby World Cup favourites if they repeat the Six Nations Grand Slam.
In 2018, Ireland won the Grand Slam and also beat the All Blacks. That latter win was the second time in three years, having never previously beaten New Zealand. That has raised expectations about what Joe Schmidt's team can achieve in Japan 2019.
However, as our own Stephen Doyle pointed out, a Grand Slam has never been done back-to-back in the Six Nations era.
O'Shea believes if Ireland buck that trend, they will move ahead of New Zealand as World Cup favourites.
"I think if someone does a Grand Slam this year, it will be an incredible achievement," said the ex-Ireland international.
"Not New Zealand"
"Because I think the level of the competition is just enormous. If you're slightly off your game, you'll come a cropper.
"Look at Wales, who haven't lost nine or 10 test matches. Scotland have the two teams in the Heineken Champions Cup quarters and will go in with confidence.
"Ireland are where they are and then there are England, France and ourselves. But I think it's going to be very, very difficult to do that.
"I think if Ireland do back-to-back, they will be favourites for the World Cup - not New Zealand."
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