Ireland boss Joe Schmidt keen to play down Eddie Jones’ favourites tag

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Joe Schmidt has brushed off Eddie Jones installing Ireland as favourites for the NatWest 6 Nations crown.

Schmidt moved to dismiss Jones’ assertion that Ireland are the front-runners for the tournament, insisting the bookmakers have it right with England on the shortest odds.

Ireland head coach Schmidt called on his squad to ignore “the odd grenade” from England boss Jones, who continues to play down his own side’s chances of a third consecutive title.

“Bookies don’t make money by being wrong,” said Schmidt of Jones rating Ireland as tournament favourites.

“You’ve got a team there (England) that’s won 22 out of 23 Test matches over the last two years. They’ve beaten everybody they’ve come up against at some stage.

“As much as we might have been the team that managed to knock them over last year, the year before that they beat us at Twickenham. And they’re back at home at Twickenham when they play us.

“I think you’ve got a number of other teams that will be very competitive so, look, as I say, the bookies don’t make money by being wrong too often.”

2018 Natwest 6 Nations Launch – Syon Park Hilton
The 6 Nations coaches: France’s Jacques Brunel, Italy’s Conor O’Shea, England’s Eddie Jones, Ireland’s Joe Schmidt, Wales’ Warren Gatland and Scotland’s Gregor Townsend (John Walton/PA)

And the former Leinster boss is determined that his Ireland squad will not fall into the trap of heeding the wily England coach’s words.

When asked if he would ever consider dabbling in mind games to shift focus, Schmidt replied: “No, I honestly try to be honest and just say it as I see it.

“I would be a quiet optimist, but I’m also a realist and I know how tough it is.

“I just like to be reasonably transparent about how I feel about it and how I perceive the players to be prepared for it.”

Ireland will launch their Six Nations campaign by facing France in Paris on February 3, while England will meet Italy in Rome a day later.

England will host Ireland at Twickenham on March 17 in a final-round showdown that could well decide the tournament.

“I know Eddie is excited about the people he’s got, he’s just not telling you that,” said Schmidt, of Jones downplaying England’s chances.

“It must be on the back of having 12 teams to select from and the eight days he’s had in camp as opposed to us having three.

“I know Eddie from old, and I know he’s going to throw in the odd grenade, and fair play to him for doing it. It keeps us on our toes.

“We’ve got to come up with some clever riposte, but we’re not clever enough to do it well.”

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