Andrew Mehrtens, the former All-Black, believes that when people discuss favourites for the Rugby World Cup in France this year, Ireland should be the first team that comes to mind.
Ireland are one of four teams considered contenders for the Webb Ellis trophy this year. Andy Farrell's team, along with Mehrtens' former side New Zealand, South Africa, and the hosts France, all have a chance of winning the trophy.
However, the challenge for Ireland is that they have not advanced beyond the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup since 1987. Therefore, some people are hesitant to bet on Ireland winning the World Cup.
Mehrtens, who represented his country 70 times, believes that more recognition should be given to Ireland as potential World Cup winners this year.
"They really should be the first team that comes to mind when you're talking about favourites for the Rugby World Cup," he said on the BBC 5 Live Rugby Daily podcast.
"France is looking good, South Africa is obviously building as well and is a phenomenal team. Ireland really deserves to be talked about a lot more. They will be happy about it, going about their business bit by bit.
"That was an impressive performance against Tonga by Ireland. A comprehensive victory against a team that has no shortage of talent, has no shortage of players who are starting to get a bit more cohesion - they are no slouches, Tonga. To put them away like that was impressive. They will go up another gear this weekend, I'm sure Ireland will do that."
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This weekend will see one of the teams with one of the best attacks in world rugby, Ireland, facing the meanest defence in world rugby, South Africa. Mehrtens has backed Andy Farrell's side to challenge the current world champions in Paris by "finding solutions' ' to the Boks' defence. He also believes that 'communication' will be key to a win
"They find solutions," Mehrtens added.
"They have the bulk, they have the strength and power to have a good go at the Boks. They will also unlock the defence better, perhaps, than the All Blacks were able to show against France or against South Africa at Twickenham.
"Ireland will go in with confidence. Where I think they are phenomenal is communication. The All Blacks, during that ten-year period where they dominated more than any other period in history with the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, had communication as an unsung hero as part of their arsenal.
"It enables them to go into structured play but react to what's going on in front of them. That's through clear, precise, and accurate communication."
- Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
- Venue: Stade de France, Paris
- Kick-off: 8:00 pm (9:00pm local)
- Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
- TV Coverage: Live on ITV (UK) and RTÉ (ROI)