Italy’s respected captain Sergio Parisse claims Joe Schmidt’s Ireland play better rugby than England under Eddie Jones.
Parisse was asked to appraise the two Six Nations tournament pacesetters after leading Italy to losses to England and Ireland in the opening two rounds.
The 34-year-old – who won the first of his 131 caps as a teenager against the All Blacks in 2002 – gave the nod to the the Irish.
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“I think Ireland play much better rugby than England for me,” Parisse said after Italy’s 56-19 defeat in Dublin on Saturday (Sunday NZ time).
“It’s much more difficult to defend against them, for me.
“For me personally it was far more difficult against Ireland. I like the way they play.
“For me they play very good rugby; yeah, they are better than England.”
England are chasing a record third successive Six Nations title. They were denied a Grand Slam last season when Ireland beat them in Dublin.
His comments – published in the Irish Independent – echoed the sentiments of Italy’s Irish coach Conor O’Shea.
“If you were to ask me now you’d say Ireland will win,” said O’Shea after Ireland ran in eight tries against his team, who lost 46-15 to England in Rome in the first round.
“We obviously don’t know about the injuries and how that will affect things though. Robbie Henshaw’s doesn’t look good at all, and he and Tadhg Furlong are big losses to the team.”
O’Shea, a former fullback who played 35 tests for Ireland, said Schmidt’s side “won’t lose in Dublin”.
“I can’t see anything other than it going down to March 17 [when England host Ireland at Twickenham].
“I always knew, even though I didn’t say it in advance, that this was the day that was going to be the hardest we’d face for many a year.”