Wales coach Warren Gatland thinks Ireland are the Six Nations pre-tournament favourites. The 52-year-old New Zealander believes Joe Schmidt's side are the team to beat in the upcoming contest.
Wales and Ireland meet in Dublin on 7 February, with the hosts hoping a victory will help propel them towards a third straight success in the tournament. "They would like to go in with people writing them off, even though they have won the championship for the last two years," said Gatland, according to the BBC. "They have to go in as favourites. You write an Irish team off at your peril."
The Kiwi said Ireland's experience and proven ability to win under pressure marks them out as the team to beat this time around. "We go into this tournament respecting them immensely, and particularly what they have achieved under Joe Schmidt over the last two seasons," he said. "I think they are favourites for the tournament, given the experience they have at knowing how to win, particularly under pressure."
Meanwhile, Gatland has also played down his chances of coaching the British and Irish Lions on their tour to New Zealand in 2017. Gatland led the Lions on their successful tour of Australia in 2013 and is, according to British and Irish Lions chief executive John Feehan, the leading contender to take charge of the team next year.
"I haven't had any conversations with anyone about that. I am only reading things in the media," he said. "If you have a good Six Nations and a good summer tour [to New Zealand], then you are in contention. That is something I will think about later down the line."