'It's exactly where you want to be...' Ireland's Grand Slam heroes soak up the plaudits

What a way to win the Six Nations, but thoughts are already turning to the World Cup later this year
'It's exactly where you want to be...' Ireland's Grand Slam heroes soak up the plaudits

Ireland’s Dan Sheehan, James Lowe, Tadhg Furlong, Jimmy O’Brien and Josh van der Flier celebrate winning the Grand Slam. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

THERE are 174 days until the World Cup kicks off in Paris, and Ireland may need the entire lot to recover from the hangover derived from Saturday night’s celebrations in the aftermath of their Grand Slam clinching win over England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Two try scoring hero, and man of the match, Dan Sheehan commented on what was “a hugely special day to win a Grand Slam in front of your own fans." 

"You want to be an Irish rugby player but you also want to be a successful one," he reflected. "A Grand Slam is really special for this whole country. I'm really proud of all the boys.

"I think we’re going from strength to strength, learning valuable lessons. I don’t think we played our best game today but you have to be able to win games, no matter which way.

"No matter what form they’re in, the English will always bring a huge test, especially in Dublin. It was the same last year. They're a great team and I'm sure they’ll bounce back.

"It's exactly where we want to be. There’s a very exciting few months coming up. We'll enjoy tonight and then think about that later on."

Sheehan’s Leinster teammate and vice-captain James Ryan said it was: "one of the best nights of our careers today. We spoke about the opportunity to win a Grand Slam at home in front of the Irish people.

"It's been a special week and it was all about delivering today. We didn't get it quite right in the first half but we stuck at it and eventually found a way. There was a bit of pressure but every game you play for Ireland there's pressure. That's why it's so pleasing. We want to test ourselves and be able to find a way. It's really special."

Andy Farrell was delighted to secure his first championship as Ireland head coach: "It means so much to everyone here, to be able to do it on St. Patrick's weekend and win a Grand Slam is always going to be special.

It was squeaky bum time at 10-9. The pressure that France put on us in the last couple of games, we knew it was win at all costs.

"It was a proper old-fashioned Test match. We were disappointed with some aspects of our game but we've a bonus point win. That's where we're at at the moment."


On captain Johnny Sexton playing his final Six Nations game Farrell said: "Hopefully there's bigger fish to fry for Johnny with the World Cup. It's unbelievable for him to have this moment and lift the trophy.

"He wanted to lift it with someone else and I said he mustn't. He deserves it. What a way for him to go out of the Six Nations."

And last but not least the captain Jonathan Sexton, who broke the Six Nations points scoring record during the game. 

"You could not make this up, it is like living in a dream. We did not play our best, but what a team, what a group of coaches. We did nothing that they told us, in fact, the exact opposite, we made things hard for ourselves.

"England are a top class team. To get a win on St Patrick's weekend is unbelievable. We did not quite nail it, but we did enough.

"It is the best tournament to play in, the best country to play for. We are so proud to be Irish. It does not feel like the end, there is plenty left in this team, we need to improve on today and we will be back.

"We set out to win a Grand Slam at the start of the year. 

We had a Triple Crown last year, we wanted to build on that, and it came down to today. 

"We talked about this day eight weeks ago. We finally got to the big final and we didn’t quite nail it, but we did enough. I'm so proud of the lads to stay in it.

"This is what you dream of as a kid. To have my family here watching me today, it’s dream-come-true stuff. I'm just pinching myself."

Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

And to finish, the Six Nations may now be history for Ireland’s talismanic out-half, but his race isn’t run yet: "It doesn't feel like the end. There's plenty more left in this team. We need to keep building. We certainly need to improve on today."

You sense he was already thinking ahead to 174 days' time.

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