England off Ireland's radar in Wales - Best

Luke PHILLIPS
Ireland's captain Rory Best is pictured during a press conference at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on March 9, 2017, ahead of their Six Nations match against Wales

Ireland captain Rory Best insisted that his side was focusing solely on Wales and not a potential Six Nations title decider against England in the case of victory in Cardiff.

A victory for Joe Schmidt's team would make for a mouth-watering showdown with championship frontrunners England in Dublin on March 18.

But Best stressed that his side, who have toppled Wales five times from eight previous Six Nations visits to Cardiff, would be concentrating on a third successive win after victories over Italy and France following a surprise opening defeat by Scotland.

"We feel we've prepared very well. We feel we're in a good place," said hooker Best.

"When you come to Six Nations games and the last two weekends there's pressure on all sides.

"We know there's pressure on us to keep that run of two wins going and we understand that if we don't win, the championship is dead for us.

"But we're concentrating solely on this game."

- No looking down the line -

Away from home in what is expected to be a bruising encounter, Best said: "I don't think anybody's looking any further down the line or ramifications of anything other than we perform at the best of our abilities."

Best, who has played against Wales 13 times in his career, added: "We're under no illusions of the scale of the task ahead of us.

"Wales have got real quality. To come here and get a win would be a massive achievement.

"It's hard to know if there are extra nerves because there are so many nerves around!"

Coach Joe Schmidt said his team would not make the same mistake as they did in their stuttering opener against Scotland, who went on to beat Wales and play England on Saturday for the Triple Crown.

"Emotionally our players will be up they have to be -- you can't miss a beat because the margins are so fine," the New Zealander said.

"We have already been stung once by going in a little bit undercooked and not being at the same heightened level that our opponents were. So I would hope that we would be as ready as Wales are.

"I have no doubt Wales, particularly having lost their last two games and having lost in the Millennium Stadium to England in their last visit there, will be highly motivated, and we have to match that level of motivation."

Schmidt, like Scotland coach and fellow Kiwi Vern Cotter, spurned the chance to join the coaching set-up for this summer's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

Wales' erstwhile coach Warren Gatland, seconded for a second time to coach the Lions, will no doubt be casting a keen eye on what could prove to be a decisive game for many players on the international stage.

"You have to put that out of your head," insisted Best. "There's one man and a team of coaches who will pick it and that's it.

"If you start to look ahead to games in June and forget about the massive occasion tomorrow ... as soon as you take your eye off the ball at this level, forget about it, that's the one or two percent that makes the difference between winning and losing Test matches of this magnitude."