Ireland can win the Rugby World Cup, says Barbarians coach and former All Black
Joe Schmidt has turned Ireland into genuine World Cup contenders, according to Barbarians coach Robbie Deans.
Former Australia boss Deans will lead the world-famous invitational Barbarians outfit against Ireland at Thomond Park on Thursday, May 28.
New Zealander Deans believes Ireland will try to "suffocate" the Barbarians in Limerick, hailing compatriot Schmidt for building a side capable of beating anyone in the world.
Deans has predicted the most open World Cup of all time in England this autumn, praising Ireland head coach Schmidt for his attention to detail.
"Ireland are absolutely one of the sides in contention for the World Cup," Deans told Press Association Sport.
"This is going to be a great World Cup.
"There's more uncertainty in terms of the ultimate winner than there's ever been.
"And there are more sides capable of getting onto the podium than ever before, and that's great for the game.
"Joe Schmidt has started really well at Test level.
"Ireland are very well-placed I think right now, the timing of this World Cup is good for them.
"They've got a good nucleus of experience, and they've shown there's no one in the world they can't beat, and that includes the All Blacks.
"They are very well-placed and Joe's played a big part in that."
Test heavyweights Joe Rokocoko, Adam Jones, Alex Cuthbert, Berrick Barnes and George Smith lead the Barbarians' cast-list for their two-game long weekend.
After facing Ireland in Limerick, Deans and his squad will then take on an England XV at Twickenham on Sunday, May 31.
Schmidt has guided Ireland to back-to-back RBS 6 Nations crowns for just the second time in their history after taking the reins following a hugely-successful stint with Leinster.
The former schoolteacher has forged a reputation as one of the world's best coaches through unrelenting drives for ever-higher standards.
Deans, who coached Australia between 2008 and 2013, knows full well Ireland possess an effective but prosaic tactical kicking game at odds with the Barbarians' festival spirit - but will warn his high-profile squad not to underestimate Schmidt's attacking credentials.
"One of the biggest challenges will be that they will want to suffocate us," said Deans, now coaching Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights.
"And they won't want to give us too many scraps, they will make us work very hard just to get our hands on the ball.
"So we'll have to make the most of the opportunities we get.
"In terms of their game they are a very ambitious with their style of play.
"They have a well-structured well-organised game but they do create a lot of stress in set-piece position, and then they go hard at the line, they want to dent the line in order to be able to run off it."