(Reuters) - England must beat Ireland in their Six Nations opener on Saturday if they are to regain their status as Europe's dominant force ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, Maro Itoje has said.
Ireland proved a class apart in 2018 after winning the Six Nations Grand Slam, earning a test series victory in Australia and beating world champions New Zealand in Dublin, and are seeking back-to-back titles for the second time in six years.
England have not recorded a victory in Dublin since 2013 but Itoje said they were ready for the challenge.
"Over the last year or so, Ireland have been the number one team in the northern hemisphere," the lock told British media.
"The only way to rectify that is to beat Ireland.
"We can definitely beat them, I have no doubt in my mind about that. It's a great way to start and will be a great way to kick off what will hopefully be a very successful year for us."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)