Ireland knock England down to third in world rankings

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Adding extra spice to the encounter - which takes place on Ireland's patron St Patrick's Day - is the possibility of England avenging their defeat in Dublin a year ago that denied them successive Grand Slams.

The All Blacks remain the No. 1 side in the world.

Having lost to Scotland and France, defeat to Ireland would mark England's worst Six Nations performance since 2006. "I am not a punter but I had a small punt on them for the Slam". But while the Irish - who clinched the championship with their impressive 28-8 defeat of Scotland in Dublin on Saturday - are on course for only the third Grand Slam in their history, England are on the cusp of a crisis.

"I think it was better but I'd still be anxious", said Eddie of the Irish defence.

"The amount of tries they have scored in and around the ruck - they will back themselves going to a line-out and producing".

There are, of course, no complaints about posting four wins from four games but that's in the past - everything now focuses on beating England next Saturday at Twickenham.

"They will push England bloody close", he said.

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"It's not as if we can't play rugby, we know we've got good players as they've played for the Lions and won games for England".

As the dust settles on Round 4 of the 2018 NatWest Six Nations which has seen Ireland crowned as this year's champions with a game to spare, it's becoming more obvious and evident to just how far Ireland are ahead of their European rivals.

. "When you get a loss it tests your mental resolve and that's the test we've got to face". They have gone unbeaten, winning 11 consecutive Test matches, a feat never matched by an Irish team before.

"It will be last minute stuff, it will be all hands to the pump", he said.

"The learnings we'll get from this, albeit very painful, are absolutely crucial going forward because it is about how we respond".

Schmidt believes the likes of Best, Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy and Kearney have the stature of the 2009 stars such as O'Driscoll and fly-half Ronan O'Gara.

"You are not going to beat any top-10 team in the world with a statistic like that, especially away from home", he added.

"Three (Six Nations titles) in five years, there are some very consistent personnel during that period". They have, South Africans will not so fondly remember, beaten the Springboks, New Zealand and England in that time.

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