“The atmosphere, the anticipation, the bus driving to the ground, the rivalries - it’s got everything really, doesn’t it? I’m as nervous this week as I was however many years ago.”
Johnny Sexton all revved up for his 14th and final Six Nations campaign.
“A free shot in Test match rugby? Where do you get them from? We’d love to be able to buy one of those. Maybe I’ll buy him a free shot after the game.”
Andy Farrell having a chuckle at Warren Gatland’s claim that their Six Nations opener in Cardiff was “a free hit” for Wales because Ireland were firm favourites.
“I’m like a bad smell. I’m back. Not going anywhere. I’m ready to rumble.”
James Lowe on returning from New Zealand, a trip he took for family reasons, in time to report for Six Nations duty.
[ Ireland pulverise England in a breathtaking Six Nations spectacle ]
“I don’t get to tackle him or I don’t get to do anything to him. I’m not playing against him, I’m playing against Wales.”
Sexton dismissing any notion that the game in Cardiff would give him a chance to pay Warren Gatland back for leaving him out of his 2021 Lions squad.
“It was just like watching the All Blacks in their pomp at times, such was the pace, precision and intensity of their play.”
The Times of London’s rather favourable take on Ireland’s performance in their 34-10 victory in Cardiff.
“All we spoke about at half-time was discipline, and then we go and give away four or five on the bounce. We had no need to do that. It is not good enough.”
Johnny Sexton, though, was less enthusiastic about the display, notably the conceding of 13 penalties.
“If you’d have given us a bonus-point win here at the start of the competition, we’d have probably snatched your hand off, but at the same time, the best thing about it is that there’s plenty to do and fix and get better with. So, it’s not a bad place to be.”
But Farrell was happy-ish.
“A lot of them pick resorts based on what the gym is like.”
Paul O’Connell on this new breed of Irish forwards and their busmen’s holidays. Young people today.
If the headline in French newspaper Midi Olympique sounds quite rude, they were actually doffing their caps to Caelan Doris for his performance in Ireland’s 32-19 win over Les Bleus.
“A gigantic performance.”
A swooning Farrell on that victory over the French.
“It’s a mark of the character of a player who has always been a class operator. It’s amazing really that he could show up today and be so calm, and put in the performance that he did.”
Sexton hailing Conor Murray for his display against France in the week that his father Gerry suffered serious injuries after a collision on his bike with a lorry.
“You know when people say a dog is like its owner? He’s a French mastiff and he’s 70 kilos. He drools and slobbers everywhere. I always tell her [his wife Sarah] I don’t know how she puts up with the two of us because I’d be a bit weird and Bane is equally as weird - and she’s quite normal. So, it’s yin and yang. We get on great.”
Finlay Bealham on the challenges Sarah faces living with two pooches.
“He dodges two players, does a pirouette, has time to take a selfie, and then he’s under the sticks.”
Jamie Heaslip describes, as only Jamie Heaslip could, Hugo Keenan’s very lovely try against the Italians.
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.”
James Lowe after that bruising trip to Rome, where Ireland beat Italy 34-20.
“I’m a big fan of Vikings and stuff like that. I have the braids in, like Ivar the Boneless or Ragnar Lothbrok. When the hair is done it’s getting close to game-time, getting close to going to Valhalla.”
Bealham on how his tresses get him ready for action. Unique, that man.
“Going back a couple of years, we’d lost our first two games and we were fighting for a bit of respect, a bit of pride, whatever. So, it’s not always like this. You’ve got to cherish it. Where else would you rather be? Would you rather be fourth and playing for nothing?”
Sexton ahead of the trip to Edinburgh, loving every moment of the pressure-packed campaign.
“I’m a man of my word. We just need to beat Scotland. I’m thinking maybe bottom of the foot or something where it won’t be seen too much. Foot or arse.”
Mack Hansen on his bet with former Scottish international Jim Hamilton - whoever lost at Murrayfield would have to get a tattoo. Jim was soon heading to the parlour.
“It was immense, the character. It wasn’t champagne rugby, but in terms of character, fight and want for each other, that’s the best game I’ve been involved in. If you’d have seen us at half-time, honestly you’d have laughed because all the lads were laughing. It was organised chaos.”
Farrell on somehow coming away from Murrayfield with a win despite losing three of the starting pack by the 26th minute and the replacement hooker early in the second half.
“We’ve been building over the last two years with a lot of challenges thrown at us.... Josh van der Flier practising his throws back in the Leinster gym, things like that which you don’t see. And you’re always prepared for the what ifs. Even if nobody prepares for two hookers going down, that’s probably a one in a hundred shot.”
Robbie Henshaw on the team coping with the host of challenges thrown at them in Murrayfield.
[ In Pictures: How Ireland won the Grand Slam ]
“If we get any more injuries during the week, we might have to look at Old Belvedere U12s.”
Farrell counting his walking wounded after the Scotland game and anticipating having to play a quite youthful team against England.
“The grandkids are coming over today, so we’ll be trying to poach them into our captain’s run and see if we can squeeze them to cheer for Ireland. We’ll see how that goes.”
Farrell on his efforts to lure Owen’s boys in to green shirts.
“It’s very hard to sit here and talk about myself all the time. It’s not about me this week, it’s about something bigger. It’s about the Grand Slam. It’s about the championship. I try not to look back too much because you want to keep pushing forward. I suppose the longer you go on, the more you want to make the most of it because you know it’s the last one.”
Sexton on wanting the focus to be purely on winning the Grand Slam, and not it being his final Six Nations game.
“No, why would we? We love it here. We’re loving life here. And the rugby’s pretty good as well.”
Farrell on being asked if he and his wife had any notion of heading back to England.
“This is the last Six Nations game but there’s so much ahead, please God, if I stay lucky and avoid injuries. There’s hopefully a World Cup, there’s hopefully some knockout games with Leinster, so I’m trying to get away from the fact that it’s this big last thing. It’s just a cup final and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
Sexton, not done yet.
“I think everybody hates England in general! It’s good, though, because once the game is done they are good lads like everyone else. That shit happened.”
Mack Hansen on (a) being quite up for playing England and (b) being prepared to let history go come the final whistle.
“Come on England!”
Zut alors, the front page of L’Équipe on Saturday morning, the paper hoping the old enemy would do them a favour in Dublin.
“Ah, you couldn’t make it up. It’s like living in a dream, I’m actually worried that I’m going to wake up in the morning. We didn’t play our best, but bloody hell, what a team.”
Sexton, atop cloud nine.
“It’s unbelievably fitting that, in my opinion, the best player ever to play for Ireland is able to sign off on a Grand Slam on St Patrick’s [weekend], in front of his home crowd. There’s a lot of stars that have aligned over the last eight weeks and accumulated into this evening.”
Farrell salutes his captain.
“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 salutes him again.
Sexton: “It was embarrassing, wasn’t it, very embarrassing. Cringey. I’m not a dancer, I can confirm that.”
Farrell: “You will be tonight.”
Sexton on his celebratory jig after his conversion following Rob Herring’s try.