Ireland beat England 13-9 to deny Eddie Jones’ side a record-breaking Grand Slam at the Aviva Stadium.
There was no shortage of motivation for the men in green with it not only being St Patrick’s Day weekend but they also had the ability to end another world record run and deny their arch-rivals the Grand Slam.
“That was like a World Cup final today and we weren’t good enough”.
“Jones added: “We’re all human beings, we’re not ideal, and that’s why world records finish at 18 games because it’s hard to keep [winning]”.
“Ireland played superbly and they were too good for us on the day”, said Jones.
“We can leave this championship proud of the effort that we had”.
“Discussions are being held with New Zealand and in England and there is a way to go”.
“All I said to him was that it’s my job as captain to make sure our players are looked after”.
“We’re 14 months into a four-year project”. There were so many circumstances that resulted in the hammering that we witnessed. But the most important thing is that if you’re well-drilled, if you deliver what you can do with the intensity and passion we’ve had with training, then things will go your way. There are brilliantly coached and they executed their plans well. “Eighteen consecutive victories is an incredible achievement”, he said. Ireland’s concession of penalties got out of control – finishing one ahead of England on 10 – and England’s maul was becoming a powerful platform.
While England captain Dylan Hartley rightly pointed out post-match that their target at the start of the season was achieved – to retain the Six Nations title – they were very much second best for the majority of the contest. They have such strength in depth with so many options as ball-carriers and playmakers. CJ Stander and Simon Zebo are the shortest-priced of the Ireland players at 9/2 to score a try.
Farrell, whose father Andy is now Ireland’s defence coach, drew England level after an Irish ruck offence. “The referee said he was keeping an eye on it”. “We will learn from that”, Jones said, before turning his attention to the lineout leader Maro Itoje.
To trace where this stunning sequence of wins started requires a return to England’s lowest ebb and a meaningless game played in Manchester.
“I think it’ll only stand to us in the future because, you look at what happened to Jamie [Heaslip] in the warm-up, you never know when a little knock, niggle, or bang, is going to knock somebody out”. But full credit to Ireland.
This convincing win against Italy will help the Scotland players build on the confidence they took from the other two victories at Murrayfield.
Hartley added: “It was negative upon negative”.
So Farrell was able to pull back three points on 50 minutes, but 12 minutes later Sexton restored the gap with a great strike from distance when England’s line-speed had got them into trouble.
“This keeps us grounded, we are not where we want to be yet”.