England coach Eddie Jones has labelled Ireland the world's best rugby side heading into the 2019 season, despite the All Blacks still firmly holding onto World Rugby's official ranking.
Jones made the controversial declaration after naming his squad for the upcoming Six Nations.
"Ireland are the best side in the world," Jones told media.
"They are a very well coached and drilled side and have particular things they do well in the game. To beat Ireland, we need to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game."
Defending champions Ireland will face England in the opening weekend of the competition in Dublin on February 3 after wrapping up a stellar 2018 season by sweeping the top accolades at the World Rugby Awards.
Kiwi Joe Schmidt won coach of the year, first-five Johnny Sexton won player of the year and the squad also claimed team of the year.
The accolades were earned after Ireland moved up to second in World Rugby's rankings due to a Six Nations Grand Slam, their first Test series win over the Wallabies in Australia and a historic first home win against the All Blacks in Dublin.
England's results were almost opposite. They finished fifth in the Six Nations with just two wins to their name and suffered an embarrassing 63-45 loss to the Barbarians at Twickenham.
They recovered with a series win in South Africa but took a step backwards after losing to the All Blacks 16-15.
Regardless of that result, Jones said Ireland were the benchmark this year.
"We have taken a completely different approach to the camp this time," Jones added.
"We are specifically focusing on the Ireland game, so we are taking players we believe will be available to play against Ireland."