Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Ireland win Six Nations: How Joe Schmidt's side claimed the title

Ireland win Six Nations: How Joe Schmidt's side claimed the title

England captain Dylan Hartley is expected to be available to face Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday but doubt now hovers over the fitness of Elliot Daly.

"I always said this year would be the hardest year we'd have".

Scotland has lost 17 of its last 19 away games in the Six Nations (W2), however its two victories in that run both came in Rome. "I wouldn't have any fears about the younger players, they're just so good at rugby that it comes so naturally to them".

Further Ireland tries from Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy, Cian Healy and a last-minute Stockdale intercept score secured a critical bonus-point win.

There was rarely any danger of a repeat display when, having made 10 changes, in a bid to develop squad depth ahead of next year's World Cup, Gatland saw Wales overpower Italy 38-14 in Cardiff on Sunday following back-to-back defeats by England and Ireland.

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"We've got our problems that we've got to sort out at global level".

It was hardly surprising that at times during Ireland's 28-8 win over Scotland in Dublin, the centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose failed to get their moves right.

"I think it's a pretty big challenge", admitted the centre. It's the flip of what happened previous year (against England in Dublin) and we know what England's motivation is going to be.

Asked if Ireland have players to stand alongside those history-makers from 2009, Schmidt replied: "I think by evidence of pure performance and results, I think you'd have to say so".

Perhaps the most significant achievement of the likes of O'Gara, Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell are the players now seeking to match them.

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The latest world rankings, published on Monday, revealed that they have been replaced by Joe Schmidt's men in second place in the wake of successive defeats by Scotland and France.

Ireland, who also prevented English Grand Slams in 2001 and 2011, are braced for a backlash.

"The learnings we'll get from this, albeit very painful, are absolutely crucial going forward because it is about how we respond". We've just got to focus now on Ireland.

"I know there's a lot of hype around it, and there will be more, there'll be a lot o distraction that you'll have to deal with and put to the side, and we're good at focusing on what we need to do, and what we need to get better at from last week".

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