Six Nations

Finale leaves Schmidt exhausted

2015-03-22 14:10
Joe Schmidt (Getty Images)

Edinburgh - Joe Schmidt called it a "roller-coaster ride" but after the ups and down of a dramatic denouement day in the 2015 Six Nations championship Ireland's head coach and his players were left clutching the trophy.

Having beaten Scotland 40-10 at Murrayfield, equalling their record margin against them, captain Paul O'Connell and the rest of the Ireland players had to wait to see whether England could overtake them at the top of the table with a winning margin of 26 points against France at Twickenham.

England's 55-35 victory confirmed Ireland as champions for the second successive season, their first back to back successes since 1948-49, O'Connell and this team-mates returning to the Murrayfield pitch to collect the trophy in front of the 5,000 celebrating Irish supporters who had stayed to watch the drama from Twickenham on the big screen.

"I've never received a trophy in such bizarre circumstances," said veteran lock O'Connell, who scored the first of Ireland's four tries -- his first for his country since 2006 and his first in the Six Nations for ten years.

"It's so strange. In some ways it feels better than last year."

Twelve months ago the Irish snatched the trophy from England's grasp with a victory in the final match of the championship against France in Paris, and in managing to retain it Schmidt has now won four major prizes in the four seasons he has been coaching in Ireland -- two Heineken Cups with Leinster and now two Six Nations crowns

The Kiwi described Saturday's drama as "tumultuous, a real roller-coaster ride.

"I think it builds coronaries for coaches," added Schmidt.

"Spare a thought for England. They probably deserved a share of the spoils but there's incredible relief in our camp.

"It's special because of the way we had to rebound from last week (a 23-16 defeat against Wales in Cardiff that cost Ireland a Grand Slam). And it's special because it's been so long since we've put back to back championship titles together."

Wales's 61-20 win against Italy in Rome in the opening game of the day left Ireland needing to win by 21 points to nose past them and they responded with a victory margin of 30, equalling the record 36-6 triumph they achieved on Scottish soil in 2005.

After lifting the trophy, O'Connell declined to be drawn on whether he might have played his last Six Nations game, with speculation about the 35-year-old retiring after the World Cup in September and October.

"I genuinely don't have an answer," said the Munster totem, who now has 101 caps. "If it does finish, this is a good way to end. If it doesn't finish, it's still a great memory to have."

Schmidt was reluctant to be deawn on the subject of projecting the Six Nations success ahead to Ireland's prospects in the World Cup, stressing that his immediate priority was his 11-year-old son, Luke, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy.

"We're off overseas to see a specialist to try to get some help with our sick son, so reality for me is a long way from rugby when we fly out on Tuesday," said the New Zealander. "I'll park the rugby for a while and then we'll look at the World Cup probably towards the end of April."

The result at Murrayfield completed a winless Six Nations for Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, the fellow Kiwi under whom Schmidt served as assistant coach at Bay of Plenty and Clermont Auvergne.

"There were things that were brought home with brutal clarity today," lamented Cotter. "We've got to address a fair few things in our game."

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  joe schmidt  |  rugby

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