Nice to be number one but NZ are WC favourites, says Schmidt - GulfToday

Nice to be number one but NZ are WC favourites, says Schmidt


Ireland’s head coach Josef Schmidt gestures during their warm-up match against Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Dublin: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said New Zealand are the firm favourites for the Rugby World Cup despite the Irish heading for Japan ranked top of the world for the first time in their history.

The 53-year-old New Zealander conceded it was a “nice label” to have and yet another first in many that the Irish have accrued since he took over in 2013.

Schmidt was speaking after Ireland had beaten Wales 19-10 to give him and inspirational captain Rory Best the perfect farewell in what was a final Test at Lansdowne Road for both of them.

Since Best took over the captaincy after the 2015 World Cup the Irish have recorded two historic wins over the All Blacks and won the 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam, only the third in their history.

The task for Schmidt and Best -- who a fortnight ago were under the hammer after a humiliating 57-15 thrasing by England at Twickenham -- is to at least take Ireland into previously uncharted territory at a World Cup as they have yet to make the last four.

“I did not realise we were (number one) till an interview after the game,” said Schmidt.

“It is a label, a nice one, nice that it is the first time that we have been in that position.

“We have been lucky enough to tick enough firsts off through the years but that label will not be relevant in Japan.

“We all know who are favourites for the World Cup and it is not us.” Schmidt, who will step away from the game when the World Cup comes to an end, said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will not be concerned at losing the world number one ranking.

“Knowing Steve and Ian Foster (his assistant) and some of the players it is far from their minds,” said Schmidt.


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