'We hope he hasn't retired for good' - Steve Tew

Ireland's Johnny Sexton

Ireland's Johnny Sexton

Speaking at the launch of the competition at the Hurlingham Club in London, Farrell said: "we just concentrate on ourselves but the start of the game is massive in Test match rugby, you've got to stamp your authority on that".

In his typically humble manner, Schmidt attempted to brush any personal praise attached to his transformation of Ireland, reigning Six Nations champions and World Cup contenders. "I felt we did a bit in 2015 at the World Cup so that's something that's probably a good time to finish on - post that I'll have had two shots at trying to get guys ready for that and then finish up from there". "I've had an unbelievable time in the game whether it be with Bay of Plenty and the Ranfurly Shield or even when we finished up at the Blues with the last semifinal which I thought was a really good step". "They're selling out quicker and quicker and it gives us a sense of connection with the people". Every Six Nations game is brutal. Traditionally, if you look at Six Nations history over the years, it's a big gain-line contest.

At a star-studded event attended by the coaches, captains, former players and the world's media, each nation set out its goals for the monumental campaigns ahead. Certainly, when a ball gets kicked off, you want to keep the opposition guessing.

At the Six Nations launch on Wednesday, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt reconfirmed his intention to take a break from coaching after this year's Rugby World Cup, again ruling his name out of contention as Steve Hansen's immediate successor with the All Blacks.

"The only acceptable thing for us is to beat Ireland and that's all we need to worry about - Ireland are our number one priority".

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Schmidt added: "He told me he was going to so I don't know!"

"And I wouldn't say that I'm looking to do any coaching so it's not something that's at the forefront of my mind".

Owen Farrell is confident he will be fit to lead England against Ireland in Dublin.

Farrell on Saturday underwent surgery to fix a damaged tendon in his thumb, casting doubt over his involvement against Schmidt's champions at the Aviva Stadium on February 2.

"I'm an incredibly accidental coach", Schmidt said, explaining his career began when he started teaching. It couldn't be delayed, I needed it done.

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