Tuesday 20 March 2018

Ireland players in hunt €5m Grand Slam jackpot

Simon Zebo scores Ireland's first try against Wales
Simon Zebo scores Ireland's first try against Wales
Conor George

Conor George

IRELAND are now one of three sides playing for the biggest ever purse in the RBS Six Nations Championship, a potential €5m for a Grand Slam title.

After one of the most explosive opening weekends in the tournament's history, three teams remain in the hunt for the clean sweep with England and giant-slayers Italy joining Declan Kidney's side as the undefeated teams.

The prize money for a potential Slam is at a record high level, up even on the amount Ireland earned for their 2009 Grand Slam and by Wales last year.

Ireland's 2009 clean sweep was worth around €4m to the IRFU coffers with Wales' reward for their unbeaten run last season around the same amount.

The IRFU budget annually for a modest third-place finish, something they have consistently achieved since the turn of the millennium. The only year Ireland finished outside of the top three was in 2008.

The Irish management have decided to delay their team announcement until Friday afternoon in order to allow the walking wounded time to recover and it will also allow Kidney to see what team England select.

There were several injuries picked up in the win over Wales. Captain Jamie Heaslip suffered a cut to his leg, Gordon D'Arcy suffered a dead leg and Brian O'Driscoll had several stitches inserted in a head wound.

He will be available to train, however, as will prop Mike Ross, who came off during the match due to severe calf cramp.

Rob Kearney reported stiffness in his back after the game and underwent a precautionary scan, which revealed no injury, while Keith Earls hurt his shoulder late in the match.

Peter O'Mahony took a bang to the head, but felt no ill-effects after the game and, while he will follow the graded return-to-play protocols, he is expected to be fit and available for the England match.

Earls underwent an initial scan and will see a specialist later this week. All are expected to take some part in training this week, although Earls' and D'Arcy's on-pitch involvement will be limited as they recover from their bangs.

Meanwhile, O'Driscoll's man-of-the-match performance understandably led to renewed queries about his playing prospects beyond this season. He deftly batted away questions about his prospects of ever reappearing at the Millennium Stadium again.

"That's two years' time, janey, let's not worry about two years," he said.

Irish Independent

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