CJ Stander collected another man of the match award and made a piece of Six Nations history as Ireland put Italy to the sword in Rome.
The flanker became the first forward to score a hat-trick of tries in the Championship as he contributed a third of Ireland’s nine tries in the 63-10 bonus-point win at Stadio Olimpico that has put his side back in the running for the 2017 title after an opening-day loss in Scotland.
The 26-year-old’s tries had comprised a small percentage of his 22 carries during the game but he had not been aware his scoring would go into the record books.
“Really? Wow, there you go. I didn’t know that at all, but that’s all testament to the hard work of the team,” said Stander when informed of his feat.
“Sometimes you’re on the end of things, but the important thing is winning, it doesn’t matter who’s scoring.
“No one scores unless everyone is doing their jobs anyway, so it’s just about working hard, doing your job and taking it from there. The boys made it easy for me, I was just on the end of the hard work from everyone. Everyone did a good job today and that paid off.”
Stander was pleased the team made amends for their poor performance at Murrayfield seven days earlier.
“It’s a good feeling to come away with the win, and now we just have to move forward and work hard again.
“We definitely felt we had something to prove after Scotland. We managed to get on the front foot early and were able to keep up the pressure.
“Everyone looks out for each other, we all get stuck in and work hard. You just concentrate on doing what you need to do. You’ve just got to work hard for the team and for your team-mates.
“It’s great to get that bonus point, it’s not something you chase but it’s also something that could help us in the tournament.”
The Munster man believes there is still much more work to be done if Ireland are to lay down a realistic challenge for the 2017 title, starting against France at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on February 25.
“Not winning in Scotland has made it tough for us when it comes to the title, and what chances we have. Everyone knows that, so beating Italy is great.
“I wouldn’t say we’re back in the mix for the title yet though, I’d just say we’re one step closer.”
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