Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll is tipping Eddie Jones’ England to win the World Cup, adding that he believes Ireland’s recent slump can be traced to Joe Schmidt’s decision late last year to announce he will quit as head coach after the tournament in Japan.
The Land Rover ambassador said that England’s pre-tournament form, which includes last Saturday’s record-breaking win over Ireland at Twickenham, suggested they are the team to beat in Japan while Schmidt’s misfiring side are in desperate need of momentum from their remaining warm-up matches, starting with Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
“I believe we could have five or six different winners of the World Cup, but if it was put to me right now to pick one team I think England are probably a team I would fancy for it,” said O’Driscoll, Ireland’s most capped player who played at the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 tournaments.
“They are gearing up brilliantly. They have had a good run of form in 2019, some really impressive displays, and I feel they have the game and the versatility of game to be able to cope with whatever is thrown at them.
“If they continue playing like some of their warm-up matches, not many teams will be able to cope with them. So if I was to pick one team right now I’m thinking them, but so much can change in the lead-up to this World Cup.”
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Changing tack to discuss Ireland’s struggles in 2019 following a 2018 where they won the Grand Slam, beat Australia in a Test series down under and then defeated the All Blacks in Dublin, O’Driscoll hinted that the end-of-year announcement that Schmidt will leave after the World Cup and will be replaced by assistant Andy Farrell has had an effect.
“It is probably no coincidence that performance has slumped a little bit since Joe Schmidt announced he wouldn’t be continuing in his post after the World Cup. Human instinct allows the brain to wonder about what might happen in the future and I’m sure it has impacted in some capacity.
“I don’t know what way you could have worked around it because you have a future plan, but I don’t think the players will be thinking they need to give Joe a proper send-off. They will be thinking more selfishly for themselves about this is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
WATCH: The RugbyPass stadium guide to where England will play in Tokyo
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