Ireland stars stay quiet on the C-word

No Irish mis-steps as the Six Nations moves towards its final stages and certainly not a thought wandering to potential glory days ahead.

Ireland stars stay quiet on the C-word

Unbeaten Ireland are taking things one cliché at a time and staying focused on their task ahead as the penultimate game at home to Scotland this Saturday looms larger.

Grand Slams can wait until after Saturday, once Ireland have made sure they are still in with a shot of their first clean sweep in the championship since 2009, but, for now, no one is taking anything for granted.

Even talk of a Championship for the current leaders, five points clear of the pack on 14 points from three games, is off the menu for discussion around the Ireland camp.

That despite the fact a third title in five seasons could be achieved with a bonus-point win over the Scots at the Aviva Stadium if title rivals England fail to win with maximum points against France on Saturday evening, as fit-again tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong explained when mention of the C-word was raised yesterday.

“I wouldn’t say it’s banned, it’s just not talked about really,” said Furlong.

“It’s no different to any other week to buts or maybes. It’s all task-orientated.

“Like, how do you eat an elephant? You eat it bite by bite, don’t you? It really is game on game for us and we have a massive one this weekend.”

Forwards coach Simon Easterby was similarly not looking beyond this weekend and believed all the Grand Slam chatter going on beyond the Irish bubble, stoked by the round-three win over Wales 10 days ago for a third straight victory in the 2018 Six Nations, would not be a distraction for the players in the days ahead.

“I guess you’d like to think not but it’s so important that we don’t get a chance to do what you’re saying if we don’t get this week right.

“I think our focus has always been making sure, like after the Welsh game, that it’s about recovering well, it’s about getting ourselves right, but our next focus was always going to be Scotland, and that hasn’t changed this week.

“It’s easy to say but I think it is part of the quality of this group that they are next-job focused and what comes after Scotland will only be as a direct impact of what happens against Scotland.

“We’ll focus on that when we get past the weekend and hopefully it’s a positive outcome on the weekend so we can look forward to the potential of going to London and trying to grab something really special.”

Easterby did not appreciate the reminder of Ireland’s defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield in last season’s opening round, but accepted the premise that thoughts of the 27-22 Edinburgh reverse will dissuade the players from any possible complacency.

“Eh, it wasn’t nice. I’m not saying you’d want to lose to create a reason to win but there’s lots of things in that game that we feel we could have done better and Scotland, to be fair to them, they were good that day.

“This is a different year, a different venue, it’s a different group of players, and it’s a different situation we’re in as well, in terms of where we sit in the table, and the potential that’s at stake the week after. But yeah, it’s a different game.”

If nothing else, more recent Scottish success has kept the Irish on message, their home 25-13 Calcutta Cup victory over England in round three giving head coach Joe Schmidt and his assistants plenty of food for thought ahead of Saturday’s Dublin appointment, particularly given Ireland’s fragility in conceding three tries out wide in each of their victories over Italy and Wales.

“I think they’ve shown how positive they’ve been ball in hand, how they’ve been prepared to keep width in their game,” Easterby said of the Scots.

“I think they were very effective at either stopping England’s momentum or turning the ball over and were pretty disruptive at the contact area.

“You’ve got a couple of areas there that you know are going to be direct to us, so it’s about us being really clinical when we’ve got the ball, making sure that we don’t allow those threats to get in over the ball. Players like (John) Barclay, Hamish Watson, (Stuart) McInally... all guys that are real threats if we allow our ball-carriers to get isolated.

“The flipside of that is making sure that when we don’t have the ball that we deal with the situations in front of us. At times in this campaign we’ve defended really well, but there’s been times when guys have gone and done things out of the system and that’s created some opportunities for the opposition.

“So, it’s about staying connected on both sides of the ball and making sure we don’t give them those little windows to get into the game.”

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