Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Markets | By Josh Butler

These young fans are confident of an Irish Grand Slam

These young fans are confident of an Irish Grand Slam

The former school teacher has the chance to cement his status as Ireland's greatest coach this weekend if the Men in Green seal a first Grand Slam - and third Six Nations title in five years - under his tutelage.

Writing on the Sport 360 website, Niall McCague said: "What makes Schmidt great is his high standards and attention to detail - a reductive phrase - but one that elevates his players to such a meteoric level".

"If we're not very much in the game, they could get away from us very quickly with the athletes that they have in their team", he said. Since then, in 2015, we were in suits shouting at Uini Atonio to keep the ball and not let it squirt out of the ruck, because we thought England might score. Today it was similar.

"That's the important thing for us and if that means we put in a good performance and stop Ireland - we just want to win that game".

There would have been no screaming at the screen this time.

The trip to Twickenham to face England represents the opportunity of a Grand Slam, with the title having been wrapped up through the Red Rose's 22-16 defeat to France. It was clear from a fairly early stage that the requisite four tries were not going to be scored, however close England came to securing the win at the death.

Indeed, to see someone like Dan Leavy fit in easily on the grand stage and become Ireland's best performer in every match this Six Nations campaign, is impressive. No wonder if the experience was curiously flat.

Luke, Will, Ethan, Christopher, Benjamin and Todd, sent us their messages for the Ireland team.

"We've had the luxury of doing that for a while now and we haven't these last two weeks".

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Then it was agonisingly so, when Huw Jones inexplicably failed to find Stuart Hogg on his shoulder a few minutes later, or when Horne failed to find Jones or Blair Kinghorn on his after another brilliant passage in the second half.

Coach Joe Schmidt said the fact the championship was in the bag would not cause his team to relax.

"James Ryan doesn't know what it's like to lose a Six Nations, there's kids like that who need to understand what Johnny said", Schmidt acknowledged. But increasingly it is looking as much a reflection on the benefits of home advantage in this competition as it is any fundamental failings on Scotland's part.

Ireland have enjoyed the party pooping role when it's been their turn to deny England a Slam in 2001, 2011 and 2017. Ireland's autumn is still up in the air, but none other than New Zealand are confirmed visitors to Dublin on the third weekend of the window - which would represent game number 18 since that defeat in Wales a year ago.

The 32-year-old star fly-half was part of the training squad for the 2009 tournament, but is now integral to Ireland's hopes of achieving only their third Five/Six Nations Slam.

"I'm delighted for Keith Earls too, because he probably would have had two others but he was injured. They're wounded but they're far from dead and buried", he said.

"But we know that the biggest challenge is ahead, still".

Winning in London has never come easily to Irish teams, their last success was a Tommy Bowe-inspired victory in 2010.

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