New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen stated that the pressure of expectation has weighed down Ireland's performance in the ongoing Six Nations tournament.
Ireland had a terrific 2018 year where they went on to win the Grand Slam in the Six Nations and defeated Wallabies 2-1 in the summer series in Australia that was followed by an undefeated autumn international campaign which also included a win against the All Blacks.
Their rise also saw them climb to the second position in the World Rugby rankings and even had a chance to topple the world champions New Zealand had they repeated their Grand Slam success in the ongoing Six Nations tournament but a 20-32 defeat against England in the opening game hampered their confidence.
Even though they managed to bounce back with scratchy wins over Scotland and Italy, Hansen believes Joe Schmidt's men are 'being hunted instead of being the hunters'.
"I said it at the time when we played Ireland that whoever won that game was going to be viewed as the number one team in the world and everyone is going to chase them," Hansen said.
"For us that's something we've been used to. We've been ranked the No 1 team for 112 months now, I think, but people have seen Ireland as the top dog after they beat us, and that put a massive amount of expectation on the players and coaches.
"Instead of being the hunters they are the hunted and it's different. It's different when you're sitting at the top of the tree. It's a different experience. Not many teams cope with it that well."