Paul O’Connell claims captain’s prize as focus turns to Cardiff

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt says he’ll know the pressure’s on to deliver another rugby Grand Slam when Brian O’Driscoll tweets it.

The reigning Six Nations champions made it three from three with a 19-9 win over England yesterday — but awkward trips to Cardiff and Edinburgh later this month mean the Championship, much less the Grand Slam, is still a work in progress.

The New Zealander said he’s not ready to talk about a Grand Slam bid. “I’ll wait for Brian O’Driscoll’s tweet to put the pressure on me,” said Schmidt, a reference to the Irish legend’s tweet after the round 2 win over France: “Another great win. 2 done 3 to go! This team absolutely has a slam in them and who knows what else...”

However, captain Paul O’Connell, who will win his 100th cap against Wales on March 14, maintained Schmidt is forging a side capable of surpassing the achievements of the 2009 Grand Slam winners.

“It’s close to it,” said O’Connell when asked if Ireland now boast the best side of his career. “I think we’re doing a lot of things really well. The way we’re preparing is a lot different from what we’ve done in the past.

“I just think the game-by- game focus suits Irish teams and Irish people. I’m sure the coaches look at the bigger picture, but for us, there will be a fairly brutal review of this game and we’ll be put under pressure then to prepare for Wales, and that will be the sole focus of the players. And it works well for us, it gets the best out of us. It’s creating a brilliant set-up and an exciting set-up to be involved in.”

O’Connell wouldn’t speculate on whether yesterday’s tense drama was his last Six Nations clash in Dublin. “It could have been but I don’t know yet, I’m undecided,” he said. “I’ll probably make the decision soon enough. I really want to play to the World Cup and be in the best shape I can there and see after that.

“That probably was my last Six Nations game against England in Dublin: There’s no point kidding myself too much.

“I’m not trying to make a big deal by not saying anything, I just genuinely haven’t decided.”

While fans are figuring out ways to get to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Schmidt pleaded for a moment’s pause. “At this stage, we’re going to just enjoy the moment and take a deep breath,” he said.

READ MORE: Joe Schmidt just lives in the moment after Ireland defeat England

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