IRELAND coach Joe Schmidt has labelled England the team to beat at the Six Nations and admitted his defending champions need to improve by 30-40 per cent if they are to retain their crown.
England made the perfect start to their bid to win the title for the first time in four years by defeating Wales 21-16 in Cardiff in Friday night’s stirring tournament curtain-raiser. Schmidt watched Ireland respond by winning 26-3 in Italy on Saturday, but admitted a patchy performance was not up to the standard set by Stuart Lancaster’s men.
“The benchmark was set by England,” he said. “England just kept the pressure right on Wales and the physical nature of that battle means we’ve got a bit of work to do without a doubt.
“We’ll have to roll our sleeves up early on next week and hopefully put together a sufficiently improved performance to be competitive against France. We were between 30 and 40 per cent off that against Italy: we wouldn’t have lived with [England]. And I thought Wales were pretty good.”