Ireland coach Declan Kidney has forecast that the Six Nations starting next month will be a tight contest unlikely to produce a Grand Slam winner.
The Irish trail World Cup finalists France, as well as Wales and defending champions England when it comes to the bookies' favourites, but Kidney is not reading too much into that assessment.
"I'm not a regular reader of the odds but I imagine they're tight because it's as tight a championship as there's ever been," Kidney said on Tuesday.
"It comes just after a World Cup year and look what happened to Wales after 2007 - they failed to reach the knock-out stages in France but went on to win the 2008 Grand Slam.
"Whoever comes out of the traps running will have a good tournament. It will be very hard to win all five matches and if a team does that then all credit to them. The championship could be decided by points difference. Each match is like a cup final in its own right," he explained.
Kidney hopes that the Irish can gain a psychological boost from the strong European Cup showings of Leinster, Munster and Ulster, who have all reached the quarterfinals.
"If we can win the first match then we'll build a bit of momentum with the lads having done so well with their provinces," said Kidney.
The Irish kick off against the Welsh on February 5 in Dublin.
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