'Genuine depth and unprecedented self-belief' - Australia's Fox Sports tips Ireland to win 2019 World Cup
Ireland are currently second favourites with the bookies to win the 2019 World Cup - but Australian media outlet Fox Sports thinks Joe Schmidt's men have what it takes to lift the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan.
Ireland enjoyed unprecedented success in 2018, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam, a test series in Australia before beating the All Blacks on home soil for the first time ever.
Schmidt has overseen Ireland's rise to number two in the world and ahead of next month's Six Nations, the team looks poised for another huge year.
Ireland have never advanced past the World Cup quarter-final and to do so in 2019 will require a big effort, with New Zealand or South Africa likely lying in wait in the last eight.
However, Fox Sports thinks that Ireland are the team to beat at next year's showpiece tournament.
"In eight tournaments the Irish are yet to reach the World Cup semifinals, let alone win one, so you would be within your rights to question whether this author’s brain was clogged with Christmas eggnog," journalist Sam Worthington wrote.
"But if it’s not next year, it might be never for the men in green, who are the world’s form side and have developed genuine depth and, more importantly, unprecedented self belief and clarity under wily coach Joe Schmidt.
"After beating the All Blacks for the first time in Dublin the only concern is they may have peaked and don’t have further room for growth.
"But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt given they have shaken their Kiwi hoodoo and their stifling defensive pressure gives any opponent fits."
The World Cup will be Joe Schmidt's last stand with Ireland, with the Kiwi announcing after last year's November internationals that he will step down from his post after the competition.
Although he stated that he will retire from coaching altogether, Worthington added that he thinks Schmidt will take over from All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen after the World Cup.
"Would the proud New Zealander really be able to turn down his dream job should the All Blacks come knocking?," he asked.
"Steve Hansen has cleared the runway and while there are plenty of well qualified candidates, none boast the claims of the meticulous former schoolteacher Schmidt.
"And if Ireland do win the World Cup, NZ Rugby should move heaven and earth to land him."