Champions Ireland must ‘save best for last’ for Grand Slam

Champions Ireland must 'save best for last' for Grand Slam
Six Nations 2018: Ireland 28-8 Scotland highlights

Once the Ireland players had trooped back into the dressing room after defeating Scotland 28-8, Rory Best called them all together to remind them that there is still work left to be done.

The bonus-point win against Scotland and England’s subsequent loss in Paris means Ireland have already secured their third title in five years, but the Ireland captain is determined not to allow a shot at rugby immortality to escape them.

“Whenever you put yourselves in the position to win ‘everything’, effectively, in this Six Nations, this great championship, it becomes massive,” said the Ireland captain, who was still bearing the scars of another brutal battle.

“We’re going to have to probably save the best for last – that’s what it’s going to take to win everything next week.”

Best and Rob Kearney, who was man of the match against Scotland, are the only members of the 2009 Grand Slam winning side still in the Irish squad and they will be reminding the current generation of the rarity of the opportunity that presents itself at Twickenham on Saturday.

Johnny Sexton was part of the extended Ireland squad in 2009 but had to wait until November that year to make his Test debut, and the fly-half is still motivated by missing out on that historic day.

“I’d be lying if I said otherwise,” said Sexton.

Rory Best says Ireland will have to ‘dig deep’ to complete Grand Slam at Twickenham

“[Then-coach] Declan Kidney said I was just as much a part of it as everyone else in back in 2009 when I was in the [training] bibs – I definitely didn’t feel that way.

“I remember some of the talks that were made around those times.

“The [Paul] O’Connells, the [Brian] O’Driscolls and [Ronan] O’Garas had been trying to achieve this for 10 years, and you could tell by their speeches and their actions through that season how much it meant to them.

“They had to drag along guys like Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney, who were these young guys who were coming through, and it’s very similar to that now.

“I think Rory is desperate for a Grand Slam because he feels that he would be a bigger part of it now than when he played back then.”

Scotland clash was 20-point result in a one-score game – Schmidt

‘I still haven’t won a Triple Crown’

Ireland have swept to this year’s title on the back of some stand-out performances by the younger members of the squad.

Jacob Stockdale’s habit of scoring intercept tries has developed into a trademark and the 21-year-old Ulster star has an incredible strike rate of 10 tries in just eight Test appearances after his double on Saturday.

Former Ireland Under-20s captain James Ryan – another 21-year-old – was Ireland’s stand-out forward against Scotland – topping the charts with 15 carries, 13 tackles and three line-out wins.

Garry Ringrose, the 23-year-old who was making just his seventh appearance of the season for both Ireland and Leinster, produced an outstanding performance at outside centre, having become the third player to be forced into that position during this year’s championship.

Dan Leavy, Andrew Porter and the injured trio of Josh van der Flier, Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell have also been influential throughout the championship.

“They probably think they’re going to get loads of opportunities but as I know it doesn’t work out like that,” said Sexton of the younger players in the team.

“I remember playing Scotland in Croke Park for a Triple Crown [in 2010] and almost taking it for granted because I thought ‘I’ll have plenty more opportunities to win one of these’, and I still haven’t won a Triple Crown.

“You have got to grab these opportunities with both hands when they come.”

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