Former England international Brian Moore believes that Ireland is the only northern hemisphere side capable of challenging the 'big three' in next year's World Cup.
Ireland's clean sweep of the Autumn internationals, where they defeated both South Africa and Australia, has further boosted their prospects in the competition that has been traditionally dominated by the two nations along with New Zealand.
England's success in 2003 is the only time a European side has broken the monopoly and after witnessing England's stuttering performances, the pundit is backing Ireland to be the only side capable of mounting a serious challenge next year.
"So the end of the autumn internationals, bar two games, shows us that nothing has changed in the relationship between the northern and southern hemisphere rivals – there is only one team that appears capable of mounting a serious challenge to the traditional hegemony of the top three," he wrote in his column in The Telegraph.
"The difference from a few weeks ago is that it is Ireland and not England who look best placed to break the stranglehold of the south on global rugby."
England will hope to end their series with a badly-needed victory against the Wallabies this weekend, but Moore has been impressed by Joe Schmidt's side.
He does add however that the Six Nations champions will need to overcome obstacles that have weighed heavily on Irish shoulders in the past.
"Nobody is advocating bluster but to me one of Ireland’s historic problems is there absolute determination to avoid any suggestion that they might be favourites for any tournament or even match. This is not about preventing over-confidence, it betrays an ultimate lack of faith in the ability of the team to win when they have no stimulus beyond the simple one-versus-one contest."
"If Schmidt can add proportionate confidence to his lessons there will be good reason to expect Ireland to mount a serious World Cup challenge."