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Joe Schmidt: The England v France game was nearly the death of me

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has praised his "special" group of players and staff after the Six Nations championship was claimed in the most dramatic of circumstances.

In a gripping day of rugby, it all boiled down to events in Twickenham where Stuart Lancaster's England emerged victorious in a pulsating game against France, but not by enough to deprive Ireland of back-to-back titles.

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Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the six nations trophy at Murrayfield Stadium. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the six nations trophy at Murrayfield Stadium. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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Paul O'Connell (left), and Sean O'Brian with the six nations trophy. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Paul O'Connell (left), and Sean O'Brian with the six nations trophy. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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Sean O'Brien of Ireland kisses the Six Nations trophy.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Sean O'Brien of Ireland kisses the Six Nations trophy. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Paul O' Connell offers the trophy to the rest of the team.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Paul O' Connell offers the trophy to the rest of the team. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Rob Kearney after winning the 2015 RBS Six Nations. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Rob Kearney after winning the 2015 RBS Six Nations. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the Six Nations Trophy (left), as Jamie Heaslip sprays his team with champagne. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the Six Nations Trophy (left), as Jamie Heaslip sprays his team with champagne. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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Ireland celebrates winning the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Ireland celebrates winning the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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 Paul O'Connell lifts the six nations trophy. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Paul O'Connell lifts the six nations trophy. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

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Paul O'Connell lifts the six nations trophy as they celebrate. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Paul O'Connell lifts the six nations trophy as they celebrate. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

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Paul O'Connell celebrates with the Six Nations trophy.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Paul O'Connell celebrates with the Six Nations trophy. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Simon Zebo and Conor Murray of Ireland celebrate victory.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Simon Zebo and Conor Murray of Ireland celebrate victory. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Jamie Heaslip celebrates with the trophy.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Jamie Heaslip celebrates with the trophy. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Paul O' Connell lifts the trophy as his team mates celebrate.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Paul O' Connell lifts the trophy as his team mates celebrate. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner celebrate with the trophy.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner celebrate with the trophy. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Paul O' Connell celebrates after the RBS Six Nations win.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Paul O' Connell celebrates after the RBS Six Nations win. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Paul O' Connell (third right) and team mates celebrate after the RBS Six Nations match.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Paul O' Connell (third right) and team mates celebrate after the RBS Six Nations match. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Ireland players Jamie Heaslip (left) Rob Kearney (centre) and Sean O' Brien celebrate. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Ireland players Jamie Heaslip (left) Rob Kearney (centre) and Sean O' Brien celebrate. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Ireland captain Paul O'Connell carries his son Paddy from the pitch at the end of the game.

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell carries his son Paddy from the pitch at the end of the game.

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Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne celebrate. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne celebrate. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Connor Murray and Peter O'Mahony acknowledge the applause from the crowd at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ireland's Connor Murray and Peter O'Mahony acknowledge the applause from the crowd at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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Jonathon Sexton scores a penalty. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Jonathon Sexton scores a penalty. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Ireland's Peter O'Mahony acknowledges the applause from the crowd at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony acknowledges the applause from the crowd at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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Ireland's Jared Payne scoring a try during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Ireland's Jared Payne scoring a try during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Ireland's Jared Payne celebrates a try during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Ireland's Jared Payne celebrates a try during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Ireland's Paul O'Connell with the Centenary Quaich after the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Ireland's Paul O'Connell with the Centenary Quaich after the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Paul O'Connell with the Centenary Quaich after the match. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Paul O'Connell with the Centenary Quaich after the match. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

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Scotlands Jim Hamilton and Irelands Jamie Heaslip compete in a line out. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Scotlands Jim Hamilton and Irelands Jamie Heaslip compete in a line out. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

REUTERS

Jonathan Sexton in action with Scotlands Finn Russell. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Jonathan Sexton in action with Scotlands Finn Russell. Reuters / Russell Cheyne

REUTERS

Jared Payne is congratulated by team-mate Jonathan Sexton after scoring his side's third try.

Jared Payne is congratulated by team-mate Jonathan Sexton after scoring his side's third try.

SPORTSFILE

Jared Payne touches down to score his side's third try of the game.

Jared Payne touches down to score his side's third try of the game.

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Sean O'Brien scores his side's second try against Scotland.

Sean O'Brien scores his side's second try against Scotland.

SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Luke Fitzgerald, Ireland, is tackled by Stuart Hogg, Scotland.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Luke Fitzgerald, Ireland, is tackled by Stuart Hogg, Scotland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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21 March 2015; Jonathan Sexton, Ireland, is tackled by Jim Hamilton, Scotland.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Jonathan Sexton, Ireland, is tackled by Jim Hamilton, Scotland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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21 March 2015; Stuart Hogg, Scotland, is tackled by Paul O'Connell and Cian Healy, Ireland.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Stuart Hogg, Scotland, is tackled by Paul O'Connell and Cian Healy, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Ireland supporters, from left, Richard, Daniel, Jack and Philip Boland, from The Curragh, Co. Kildare, ahead of the game.

Ireland supporters, from left, Richard, Daniel, Jack and Philip Boland, from The Curragh, Co. Kildare, ahead of the game.

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21 March 2015; Jonathan Sexton, Ireland, is tackled by Finn Russell, left, and Matt Scott, Scotland.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Jonathan Sexton, Ireland, is tackled by Finn Russell, left, and Matt Scott, Scotland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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21 March 2015; Ireland supporter Betty Corcoran, originally from Bray, Co. Wicklow, but living in Airdrie, Scotland, cheers the Ireland team's arrival into ground ahead of the game.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland supporter Betty Corcoran, originally from Bray, Co. Wicklow, but living in Airdrie, Scotland, cheers the Ireland team's arrival into ground ahead of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland supporters John, Nicola and Charlie Collins, from Ballsbridge, Dublin, cheer the Ireland team on their arrival ahead of the game.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland supporters John, Nicola and Charlie Collins, from Ballsbridge, Dublin, cheer the Ireland team on their arrival ahead of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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21 March 2015; Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald arrives into the ground ahead of the game.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald arrives into the ground ahead of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Sean O'Brien scores their second try of the game during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 21, 2015. See PA story RUGBYU Scotland. Photo credit should read: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ireland's Sean O'Brien scores their second try of the game during the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 21, 2015. See PA story RUGBYU Scotland. Photo credit should read: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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21 March 2015; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell goes over to score his side's first try, his seventh career try, in the fifth minute of the game.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell goes over to score his side's first try, his seventh career try, in the fifth minute of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell goes over to score his side's first try, his seventh career try, in the fifth minute of the game.  RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

21 March 2015; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell goes over to score his side's first try, his seventh career try, in the fifth minute of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Paul O'Connell of Ireland scores the first try during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield

Paul O'Connell of Ireland scores the first try during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield

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Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the six nations trophy at Murrayfield Stadium. Photo: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Ultimately they fell just six points short after defeating France 55-35, but could not find the 13th try of the game that would have handed the home side the championship after Ireland recorded an emphatic 40-10 victory over Scotland.

The jubilant coach was quick to pay tribute to England after their 55-35 win fell short of their target to overhaul the reigning champions.

"I can sympathise with them," he said afterwards. "I thought their performance was superb."

"Thankfully France rebounded each time. England did get a bit of a differential and that allowed us to hang in and claim the silverware."

The former Leinster coach admitted it was difficult to watch the roller-coaster of a game at Twickenham.

"It's going to be the death of me," he joked. "It was pretty tough viewing. All this makes it worthwhile."

The humble Kiwi deflected any praise directed towards himself for the second successive title insisting that it is the squad and his "special" staff that deserve the plaudits.

"I'd love to say that I have something to do with it. I think Paul O'Connell grabbed the week by the scruff of the neck, he grabbed himself by the scruff of the neck about Tuesday afternoon and he led them forward.

"The way they rebounded after the amount of disappointment last weekend is a real credit to them."

The championship success will boost Ireland's credentials with the World Cup looming but Schmidt insisted that he is only thinking about the Six Nations for the moment and keen to savour the victory.

"I'm not going to think about anything else for a little while," he maintained.

"These sort of nights don't come around too often. I'm just going to enjoy a special night with a special group of players and staff who have worked incredibly hard over the last eight weeks."

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