Six Nations

Ireland remaining grounded

2015-03-02 22:05
Joe Schmidt (Getty Images)

Dublin - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has said he drew on the boisterous home crowd for inspiration for the first time in a pre-match team talk before his side beat England on Sunday to take control of the Six Nations championship.

The Kiwi coach may now face an even tougher task keeping a lid on expectations following the holders' comprehensive 19-9 victory.

After a packed Aviva Stadium, already giddy as Ireland neared a record-equalling 10th successive win, duly delivered, Monday's front and back newspaper pages further fuelled dreams of going to September's World Cup as grand slam winners.

"I'll wait for Drico's tweet to put the pressure on me," Schmidt joked when asked if a championship clean sweep was on the cards, referring a Brian O'Driscoll tweet after last month's win over France when the recently retired centre said "this team absolutely has a slam in them and who knows what else..."

The former Ireland captain said he texted his old coach a couple of days later to say sorry for getting over excited.

However O'Driscoll's optimism reflects a growing belief that anything is possible under Schmidt, whose precise preparation and tactical expertise have given an extra edge to an Ireland team with an exciting blend of youth and experience.

The sense that Schmidt's Ireland could, at the very least, progress past the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time has been steadily building since they were seconds away from a first win over Schmidt's native New Zealand in just his third game in charge in late 2013.

Ireland have lost just once since -- a three point defeat to England a year ago -- and while some say it may not always be the prettiest, Ireland's kicking and territory-based game is proving extremely effective. Just ask England, France, Australia and South Africa.

Dreams of a second slam in 67 years could easily be derailed in Cardiff on March 14 and Eddie O'Sullivan, the coach who watched Ireland implode eight years ago when they went to the 2007 World Cup with similar hopes, cautioned fans against getting too carried away.

However O'Sullivan agreed with captain Paul O'Connell that the current Ireland team could be as good as any that have gone before.

"We know if we win the Championship that the speculation will go off the charts and we saw what happened in 2007. I can write the book on that for you!" O'Sullivan told the Newstalk radio station on Monday.

"But the way we have been delivering performances on the day, anything's possible."

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