Former England and British and Irish Lions second-row Simon Shaw believes Ireland will win the Six Nations due to their favourable schedule.
The retired lock feels that Joe Schmidt’s charges hold a slight upper hand in terms of the fixtures as they face both France and England on home soil.
“I think the draw, in terms of home and away games, is a big part of whether a team will succeed or not in the Six Nations,” he explained to Perform.
“England have got a couple of tough away games, there’s no doubt about it.
“Perhaps the weaker sides, Scotland and Italy, are not the ones you want to play at home.
“Ireland have got a couple of good home games against tough opposition [France and England], so that’s to their advantage.
“I think Ireland will win.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s Championship opener in Cardiff, Shaw admits it’s going to be intriguing clash.
“Whichever side wins will take something out of that game, but equally the side that loses will see that as a tool to get themselves up for the match at the World Cup,” he added.
“[I don’t know] whether they’ll take too much out of it in terms of this one-off game because England have got a lot of injuries and they’ll hope to have a much stronger side come the World Cup.
“I think for England’s Six Nations, it’s absolutely crucial that they get off to a winning start.
“If they don’t, it’s going to be an incredibly tough tournament.”