Ex-Ireland head coach looks ahead to Six Nations opener against Scotland
Eddie O'Sullivan feels Ireland will be too strong for Scotland in the opening 2017 Six Nations match at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Joe Schmidt's side kick off the five-match tournament with a trip away to face a Scotland side on the rise.
But although, ex-Ireland head coach O'Sullivan is impressed by the Scots, he feels Ireland would have to suffer an off day for Vern Cotter's side to prevail.
"They are a good Scottish team. But if you look at the match ups, I still think we have the beating of them," he said on Off The Ball.
"Will we win? We should. Could we lose? We could. But I think we'd have to play below par and they'd have to play right up there to beat us.
"I don't see us dropping. In fairness to Joe Schmidt, he's got that kind of grip on the team where they know it's about delivering consistency all the time. So I don't see fellas dropping off. It's not allowable in this professional era and I don't think we'll fall off. It'll be a bit of a dog fight but I think we'll come out the right side of it in the end."
Acknowledging that the opposition was New Zealand and Australia, O'Sullivan's one concern for Ireland was that the team became "a bit leaky on tries" during the November Internationals, adding that Canada managed three tries in Dublin.
"So I think there's a little question mark there and Scotland might take some hope out of that because their continuity is very good. Like us, their ball retention is in the 90 percentile, so they don't give the ball away that much. They'll hold on to it. But if we get sloppy on defence and we get compressed like we can do at times and leave space on the outside corners, we could get caught a little bit," he said.
And as for Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam or title hopes, O'Sullivan pointed out that it's the odd year where France and England must visit Dublin. But France's fall from grace opens up an opportunity.
"It's between Ireland, England and Wales," he said.
"The pivotal game for Ireland, because I think we'll beat Scotland, Italy and France in Dublin, will be Friday night in Cardiff. If we beat Wales in Cardiff on a Friday night, I think Joe Schmidt will fancy his chances in Dublin a week later against England. And England, if they have any more injuries, could be very vulnerable. So it's stacked up nicely for us."
But if Ireland were to lose Conor Murray or Jonathan Sexton to injury, then O'Sullivan sees that as a "big problem" that could derail Irish hopes.