Are Ireland now World Cup favourites? Schmidt laughs off Hansen claim

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt laughed off New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen’s claim that the Irish are now World Cup favourites after victory in Dublin.

The world’s number two side won 16-9 in Dublin to claim their first home victory over the All Blacks.

“I guess they are favourites,” said Hansen, whose side have won the past two World Cups.

New Zealand-born Schmidt described Hansen’s comments as “a little bit of banter”.

The World Cup in Japan starts in September 2019.

“So for us to be favourites when they have been the world number one team for nine years, and continue to be the world number one team?” said Schmidt.

“We were at home, and they were coming off a long series of games where they have travelled around the world a number of times.

“The crowd were phenomenal tonight. And that’s a lot of things stacked in our favour.

“So we’ll take tonight, and leave 11 months’ time for 11 months’ time.

“The World Cup? We’ve got to work hard to make sure we’re ready for the USA [next week],” said Schmidt.

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Could Schmidt succeed Hansen?

Schmidt is expected to decide this month whether he will agree to a contract extension with Ireland beyond the World Cup.

It remains unclear whether two-time World Cup-winning coach Hansen will stay after the tournament, and Schmidt has been suggested a possible successor.

“I’ve huge respect for Steve, Fozzy (Ian Foster) and Scott MacLeod, their coaching staff,” said Schmidt.

The All Blacks will retain their number one ranking despite Saturday’s defeat.

“As I said earlier in the week this was number one versus number two in the world,” said Hansen.

“So as of now they are the number one team in the world. If you want to make them World Cup favourites, go ahead.”

He said his players were “gutted” by defeat at the Aviva Stadium, but added: “This will be very useful as this team hasn’t suffered many [defeats] over the past three years.”

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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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