Sport

Thursday 18 October 2018

Joe Schmidt warns England as Ireland chase Grand Slam at Twickenham

Ireland racked up a 28-8 bonus-point win over Scotland in Dublin to move within one victory of just their third-ever Six Nations clean sweep.

Joe Schmidt's Ireland side eyeing up Grand Slam glory this weekend
Joe Schmidt's Ireland side eyeing up Grand Slam glory this weekend

By Nick Purewal, Press Association Sport

Joe Schmidt has warned England “history doesn’t protect you from the future” as NatWest 6 Nations champions Ireland chase the Grand Slam at Twickenham next weekend.

Ireland racked up a 28-8 bonus-point win over Scotland in Dublin to move within one victory of just their third-ever Six Nations clean sweep.

England’s 22-16 loss to France in Paris handed Ireland the title with a week to spare – but now head coach Schmidt’s men must end Eddie Jones’ unbeaten Twickenham record to claim a first Grand Slam since 2009.

Ireland are unbeaten at home in the Six Nations since 2013, leading Schmidt to insist he knows full well the pressure England face defending home-turf honour.

“I guess history doesn’t protect you from the future; we knew that today,” said Schmidt, with Ireland landing their third Six Nations title in five years.

“We hadn’t lost in five years in the Six Nations here in Dublin. It didn’t protect us, we had to go out and win again today. That’s all part of the challenge.

“We need to go to Twickenham and try to test that record out, I guess.

“But it won’t be uppermost in our thinking because you can be distracted looking back when you need to be moving forward.

“We didn’t feel our five-year run in the Six Nations here protected us.

“And I’m sure Eddie Jones and the boys will be fully focused on winning the game next week.”

Jacob Stockdale became the first Irishman to claim six tries in a single Five or Six Nations competition with a brace against the Scots.

Conor Murray and Sean Cronin sealed Ireland’s third bonus-point win in their four clashes to date, with the Grand Slam now on the line at Twickenham.

Ireland registered a national record 11th consecutive win too, in another boost for former Leinster boss Schmidt’s hugely impressive tenure.

Asked how he would feel to guide Ireland to a Grand Slam to equal the exploits of the 1948 and 2009 vintage, Schmidt said: “I think it would give me incredible satisfaction.

“I work with these young men who go out and do an incredibly difficult job and work very hard. It would give me incredible satisfaction to see that rewarded.

“In the end the satisfaction is something that really is placed around the effort that they make.”

Only Rory Best and Rob Kearney remain in Ireland’s squad from those that claimed the Grand Slam in 2009.

Current skipper Best admitted Ireland will now need to summon their best rugby yet in this year’s tournament to topple England and complete the clean sweep.

“We’re going to have to save the best for last, and that’s what it’s going to take to win everything next week,” said Best.

“Everyone knows the size of the challenge. They haven’t lost at Twickenham under Eddie Jones.”

British and Irish Lions fly-half Johnny Sexton admitted being on the periphery of Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam triumph only heightens his desire for further glory.

Sexton made his Ireland debut in November 2009, but was part of Declan Kidney’s wider Grand Slam-winning squad earlier that year.

Asked if that experience makes him even thirstier for success now, Sexton said: “You’d be lying if you said otherwise.

“Declan Kidney said I was just as much a part of it as everyone else back in 2009 when I was in the bibs. I definitely didn’t feel that way.

“Around those times, Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara – they’d been trying to achieve that for 10 years.

“You could tell by their speeches and their actions how it meant to them.

“It’s very similar now: I know Rory (Best) is desperate for a Grand Slam because he thinks he’ll be a bigger part of it than he played back then.

“The young guys probably think they are going to get a lot of opportunities but it doesn’t work like that.

“I remember playing Scotland in Croke Park for a Triple Crown and almost taking it for granted – and I still haven’t won a Triple Crown.

“You’ve got to take these opportunities with both hands when they come.”

Press Association

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