Joe Schmidt claims that 'indomitable' England are justified Six Nations favourites
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has claimed it would be impossible to look forward two months and rank the six teams in this year's RBS Six Nations.
Ireland finished third last year in fending off a host of injuries having won the title in 2014 and 2015.
Schmidt now admitted he will seek a top-two finish this term, with Ireland obviously buoyed from the 40-29 win over New Zealand in November.
Schmidt has installed defending champions England as favourites, branding Eddie Jones' side "indomitable".
"A top-two finish would be great," said Schmidt.
"I know last year I said a top-three finish would be good given where we were at the time. But I think we've got to strive to get in that top two again now though.
"It's hard to say anything beyond that, because I think this Six Nations will be the most competitive I'll have been involved in.
"There are so many teams that have good reference points coming from November, that have good continuity.
"The likes of Scotland with the way Glasgow are playing at the moment and that being the core of their team. They can bring in the class of guys like Laidlaw, Maitland and Richie Gray from Toulouse. There's a lot going for a lot of teams.
"Obviously, England are at the top of the pile. Over te last 14 or 15 months, they have been indomitable. They really have been impressive. To go to Australia and get those three results was exceptional and, obviously, they got the Grand Slam.
"I think Wales are a sleeping giant. I remember that England v Wales game last year. England's dominance early in the game but the way Wales came back. Was there a foot in touch or not at the end of the game? That's the quality they have.
"France against the All Blacks. If Beauden Barrett doesn't get that intercept, France had so many of the stats on their side that will make them a threat. Italy beat South African and people say South Africa weren't in top form, but it was a top effort.
"If you were trying to rank one to six in two months' time, a lot of people would struggle to get it right. I don't think it's easy to predict and it's going to be hard for anyone to get on top."