Warren Gatland believes title holders Ireland go into their Six Nations defence as tournament favourites.
Wales and Ireland meet in Dublin in their opening game on Sunday, 7 February, with Joe Schmidt’s side eyeing a hat-trick of European crowns.
“They would like to go in with people writing them off, even though they have won the championship for the last two years,” said the Wales coach.
“They have to go in as favourites. You write an Irish team off at your peril.”
He added: “We go into this tournament respecting them immensely, and particularly what they have achieved under Joe Schmidt over the last two seasons.
“I think they are favourites for the tournament, given the experience they have at knowing how to win, particularly under pressure.”
Gatland has named only one uncapped player – scrum-half Aled Davies – in a37-strong squad for the tournament.
Schmidt is scheduled to name his Ireland squad on Wednesday as well as a successor to retired skipper Paul O’Connell.
With England and France under new coaches Eddie Jones and Guy Noves respectively, Gatland says the tournament is “a little bit of an unknown quantity”.
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