Former England outhalf Toby Flood has sensationally claimed that the current Irish team under Andy Farrell reminds him of the All Blacks in their prime.
This claim comes after Ireland swept France aside in their own backyard on Friday night in one of their most dominant displays in the Six Nations ever. The narrative around a potential second Grand Slam has begun.
The Irish team was without retired veterans like Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton, as well as sidelined stars Mack Hansen and Jimmy O'Brien. However, the emergence of newcomers such as Calvin Nash, Joe McCarthy, and Jack Crowley allowed Ireland to secure a 17-38 victory in the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.
With three home games remaining in Dublin and one crucial away fixture at Twickenham looming on March 9th, the stage is set for Ireland to defend their Six Nations crown. It will take a brave man or woman to bet against Andy Farrell's troops from retaining their Six Nations crown in 2024.
Flood, who played against Ireland during his career, believes that the current all-conquering Ireland side reminds him of New Zealand's when they were in their era of glory.
The All Blacks have won the Rugby World Cup three times, first in 1987, then in 2011, and retained the Webb Ellis trophy again in 2015. To many, they are one of the greatest rugby teams ever to play the game. They also played some of the best innovative rugby ever seen.
"They were outstanding. The red card for Willemse did unbalance things. A team down to 14 can hang on a little bit, but the nature of the game today means you can’t for very long," said Flood to Instant Casino.
"Ireland looked so strong. That legacy of never winning back-to-back Grand Slams, the fact they then have three home games before going to Twickenham to have to win another. It is all stacking up pretty well."
Flood also believes that Ireland will not get cocky and will take each game as it comes.
"They won’t be fearful of anyone, but they will be conscious of not getting ahead of themselves," he added.
"The squad looks as though it has handled the transition from Johnny Sexton pretty well. That shows you how effective their system is with central contracts, and they all play in a similar way, given that Leinster has driven a psyche and a mantra of how to play for so long.
"It is almost All Blacks-esque in terms of the fact that any player can come in and fit in, understanding the structure and the system. It looked fairly ominous for everyone else this season."
Ireland's game against Italy takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday.