Billy Stickland/INPHO
World Number 1

'It's a nice label to get,' says Schmidt as Ireland summit World Rugby rankings

The head coach was eager to downplay the significance of the feat and placed the favourites’ tag squarely on New Zealand.

IRELAND CREATED ANOTHER bit of history today as they reached the top of the World Rugby rankings, pulling ahead of New Zealand thanks to a 19-10 in over Wales.

Joe Schmidt’s team will now go to the Rugby World Cup as the game’s top side, in theory, but the Kiwi was quick to underplay the importance of their new-found status.

“I didn’t even realise that we were until I did an interview after the game,” Schmidt said in his post-match press conference.

“It’s a nice label to get. And it’s a nice… first time that we’ve been in that position. So we have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this team in the last six years, but that label is not going to be relevant to anyone.”

At the tail end of last year, as the All Blacks lost in Dublin before Schmidt and Jonny Sexton claimed individual honours at the World Rugby awards, Ireland quickly became many people’s hot tip for success in Japan.

Though that outside confidence dissipated throughout 2019, Schmidt was happy to make doubly sure that the favourites tag – placed on Ireland by Steve Hansen last year – does not stick to his side.

“We all know who the favourites are for the Rugby World Cup, and it’s not us,” said the head coach.

Knowing Steve and Ian Foster… for them, it’s far from their minds. They’re very process focused and for them it’s about getting up, making the ball work and working hard for each other. And, I don’t know if you noticed, they do a pretty good job of it.”

Whatever the coaches say, New Zealand are favourites with bookmakers to retain the Webb Ellis trophy, followed by England, South Africa and then the world’s number one team.

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