Triple Crown now the target for Ireland after Twickenham triumph

Andy Farrell will not look past challenge of Scotland on final weekend

Not since 2004, when Ireland beat Scotland at the old Lansdowne Road has an Irish team clinched silverware on home soil. The two Triple Crowns, two Six Nations titles and two Grand Slams since have been sealed in away grounds. So next Saturday against Scotland at the Aviva, Ireland can do something special.

They have earned themselves the opportunity to win their first Triple Crown at home in 18 years, and only 12th in history, while also atoning for the missed opportunity against Scotland in the anti-climactic Croke Park farewell in 2010.

Better still, having narrowed the deficit on leaders France to two points with Saturday’s record, bonus-point 32-15 win at Twickenham, Ireland can still give themselves a shot at the title by beating Scotland and thus putting the pressure on Les Bleus to beat England in Paris in order to complete their first Grand Slam and title since 2010.

This Irish side has at least fulfilled their vow to take the title to the last day. It’s not where they ideally wanted to be, but it’s not a bad place to be either.


"It's what we want," said head coach Andy Farrell after Saturday's victory. "The ideal part for everyone starting the competition, was to go for a Grand Slam, there's no doubt about that. There's only one team that's allowed to do that but we're on to the next task and the next task for us is making sure that we prepare unbelievably well for what is a massive occasion for us at Aviva Stadium, playing for a trophy.

“Playing for the Triple Crown is huge for us and performing and putting pressure on France is what we’re about, but at the same time we know that Scotland will want to finish the competition off really well. Everyone does at the end of a competition and we’ll expect them to be at their best.

“We know that they’re a hell of a side as well so we’ve got to make sure that we recover properly, be honest with ourselves, take the learnings and make sure we’re ready for a final next week.”

Ultimately, this was Ireland’s most significant away win in four years, and timely too given their next away assignment will be against a vengeful All Blacks in their Eden Park fortress in the first of three-Test series.

Experiences like Paris and Twickenham have been huge for this team’s growth, albeit it was vital to win this one especially.

“They’re huge, huge,” said Farrell. “I’ve said all along, the harder the task, the harder the game, the harder the occasion for us, the better it’s going to be for us. We want to play these types of games and we want to be under this type of pressure to see where we’re at and see if we can come through it and what we can learn and keep pushing forward because it doesn’t get any harder, does it, the next away game.

“So it’s exactly where we want to be.”

Had Ireland failed to close out the deal after the second minute sending off of Charlie Ewels – the quickest red card in Six Nations history – they would have been damaged goods going to New Zealand, so it was vital for the team's belief that they figured a way to do so.

“It’s massive, because it’s something we’ve talked about a lot,” admitted Farrell. “I’ve always said to you, the game takes its own course and that’s why it’s called Test match rugby.

“Let me take you back to a good few years ago in a warm-up game here, our set-piece capitulated and we lost by 50-odd points. That was never going to happen and we all know that, so you rewind a couple of weeks to the pressure of Paris.

“Sometimes you become a bit desperate when you’re playing against 14 men and don’t quite execute. But we were able to get back on track. It’s something we keep on talking about. We managed to get there.”

Farrell singled out Dan Sheehan's steep learning curve in these two away games, as well as the performances of Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, James Lowe and Josh van der Flier among other fantastic displays, which has to include Tadhg Beirne and Caelan Doris. He also praised the impact of the bench, and the enduring importance of Johnny Sexton.

The scoreline scarcely conveys how twitchy this win actually was, Ireland forfeiting chances to pull clear amid the wreckage at scrum time which invoked unhappy previous treks to Twickenham. Six scrum penalties was just one shy of the carnage here in 2012.

Surprisingly, though, if maybe putting on a brave front, pending what will surely be a forensic examination of the scrum on Saturday and Mathieu Raynal’s interpretations, Farrell did not express undue worry.

“Look, I’m not concerned about it at all. We all know we’ve got a world-class scrum, we know the personnel we’ve got. It’s going to be great learning, isn’t it? For the likes of Dan [Sheehan] and the rest of the pack, they were searching for some answers, asking the questions and I’m not sure if they got the answers or not.

“We’ll look at ourselves first and liaise with the right channels and make sure we get to the bottom of it. I think we all know that we’ve got a good scrum. England found a way and congratulations to them.”