England coach Eddie Jones insists Ireland must shoulder the burden of being the best team in the world when his side visit Dublin on Saturday and warned: “Praise can make you weak”.
The Six Nations rivals clash in an early title showdown with Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam holders coming in as favourites on the strength of a standout 2018 that included a home win over world champions New Zealand in November.
England’s head coach knows Ireland have been tipped to make a triumphant start to the defence of their crown but refuses to cast his side as underdogs.
“It’s well documented that no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win,” said Jones.
“It’s fun. You want to play the best in the world away from home and Ireland are the best in the world at the moment.
“Everyone is writing them up and they have got to carry that expectation round, so we’re excited about the prospect of playing there. Praise can make you weak.
“The boys are fit, they’re together. They’re serious, but they’ve got a smile on their face. They’re good to go and they want to make England proud.
“I never use the status of being underdogs, it’s never been one of the tricks of the trade because we never think we’re not better than the opposition.
“I’d hate to go into a game thinking we weren’t better than the opposition, that we need surprises or tricks to win the game.
“We don’t need that. We want Ireland to be at their absolute best, we want to be at our best and then for the best team to win.”
France vs Wales – Friday, February 1
Scotland vs Italy – Saturday, February 2
Ireland vs England – Saturday, February 2
Six Nations 2019 fixtures next week
WEEK TWO (All times GMT):
Scotland vs Ireland – Saturday, February 9 (2.15pm)
Italy vs Wales – Saturday, February 9 (4.45pm)
England vs France – Sunday, February 10 (3pm)
SIX NATIONS FIXTURES – THE FULL LIST