Rugby

The British Media Reaction To Ireland Winning The Grand Slam

The British Media Reaction To Ireland Winning The Grand Slam

For just the third time ever, Ireland won the Grand Slam on Saturday, defeating England at Twickenham in what was ultimately a comfortable victory for Joe Schmidt's side.

The reaction to Ireland's Grand Slam claiming season has been one of praise from the British media. With a World Cup around the corner, many are hailing Ireland as a serious contender to New Zealand's crown.

Writing for The Sunday Times - where he also managed to have a few digs at Irish sport - Stephen Jones said Ireland will have earned the respect of New Zealand.

"But all the while, Ireland seem to be improving, they are now ranked second in the world. They have a concrete-hard core, bearded growlers, fixers. Love them. That’s a Test pack. Johnny Sexton also now has somebody outside him. Once, it was a void out there, but now there is Garry Ringrose.

"They are one of the few teams New Zealand would respect and who could beat them — and we know that because they already have. The World Cup in Japan next year could see the Irish momentum become something history-making, astonishing, possibly even title-winning."

The digs from Jones include an old tune from him - how professional rugby in Ireland landed on its feet - completely fortuitously - due to the provincial system. He also chides Irish sport for harping on about the Hand Of Back incident in the 2002 Heineken Cup final ("a minor offence that made no difference") and Thierry Henry's handball.

Also in The Sunday Times, Lawrence Dallaglio named eight Irish players in his Team of the Tournament. The players included are Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, CJ Stander, James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy.

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Dallaglio hails Murray and Sexton as the "best 9-10 combination in the world" while also saying that despite not being 100 per cent from the kicking tee, Sexton is the Player of the Tournament.

He had some special praise for Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy.

Furlong has raised the bar for what is expected of tighthead props. His compatriot Healy props down on the other side. After injury problems and the dip in form that saw him slip behind Jack McGrath in the pecking order, the Leinster man has been
rejuvenated.

Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes also named their Teams of the Tournament.

Dallaglio:

15 Stuart Hogg (S) 14 Keith Earls (Ire) 13 Huw Jones (S) 12 Owen Farrell (E) 11 Jacob Stockdale (Ire) 10 Johnny Sexton (Ire) 9 Conor Murray (Ire) 8 CJ Stander (Ire) 7 Hamish Watson (S) 6 Aaron Shingler (W) 5 Johnny Gray (S) 4 James Ryan (Ire) 3 Tadhg Furling (Ire) 2 Guilhem Guirado (F) 1 Cian Healy (Ire)

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Jones:

15 R Kearney (Ire) 14 S Maitland (S) 13 G Ringrose (Ire) 12 H Jones (S) 11 E Daly (E) 10 J Sexton (Ire) 9 G Davies (W) 8 T Faletau (W) 7 Y Camara (F) 6 S Negri (Ita) 5 M Itoje (E) 4 C Hill (W) 3 T Furlong (Ire) 2 G Guirado (F) 1 C Healy (Ire)

Stuart Barnes:

15 R Kearney (Ire) 14 T Thomas (F) 13 H Jones (S) 12 H Parkes (W) 11 J Stockdale (Ire) 10 J Sexton (Ire) 9 C Murray (Ire) 8 CJ Stander (Ire) 7 Y Camara (F) 6 S Negri (Ita) 5 S Vahaamahina (F) 4 J Ryan (Ire) 3 T Furlong (Ire) 2 G Guirado (F) 1 C Healy (Ire)

According to The Guardian's Paul Rees, Ireland's strength at the breakdown is what has made the difference during the Six Nations.

Ireland’s campaign was summed up in their final moments in Paris, just as England’s was. What marked the champions apart from the rest was their ability to retain possession, as they demonstrated again in securing the grand slam at Twickenham, while England struggled throughout at the breakdown, an area their opponents targeted after watching Samoa dominate that area at Twickenham last November. Possession was nine-tenths of the score.

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Also for The Guardian, Gerard Meagher lauded the influence of Conor Murray.

England’s fortress was not so much ransacked as razed to the ground and it owed much to Conor Murray’s peerless authority. Murray has a habit of rising to occasions, and here he was magnificent. Aaron Smith may be able to fire a quicker pass but there is no better all-round scrum-half in the world than Murray. Ben Youngs has been missed a great deal more than expected by England but Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth are No 9s of repute and neither could hold a candle to Ireland’s scrum-half.

Wales legend Barry John, writing for Wales On Sunday, said that Warren Gatland's side could learn much from Ireland. It is, after all, according to John, "Welsh rugby" that Ireland are playing.

Ireland play the percentage game when necessary, but the key to their success is the way they vary their play beautifully and Wales can learn so much from that.

In Conor Murray and Sexton, Ireland possess a wonderful set of half-backs who offer control. But they aren't just structured and organised, they also play off the cuff and have trust in one another’s game.

If the ball needs to go wide quickly, out it goes quickly. Pace and space.

This is basically Welsh rugby as we have traditionally known it. Strong up front, but ready to be inventive and try things behind. We have the type of players to play exactly that way ourselves today, we just need greater conviction to do it.

Writing for The Telegraph, Ian McGeechan said Andy Farrell deserves credit for Ireland's defensive discipline.

Joe Schmidt will take the plaudits, and rightly so. But a lot of credit must go to Andy Farrell. Ireland let in three tries again (as they did against Italy and Wales), but when it mattered, at the key moments, they were so disciplined. Every player took responsibility.

At the start of the second half, England again had a five-minute spell when they really applied some consistent pressure. I think they went through 14 phases at one point inside Ireland’s 22 metre line. Ireland did not miss one tackle in that period. Eventually, Daly was penalised for a head roll and Ireland were able to clear their lines. It was brilliant defence.

Also for The Telegraph, Tomy Cary wrote that Ireland are not a one-man team - they are much more than just Johnny Sexton.

In his absence, the team stood up brilliantly. From Tadhg Furlong at tighthead – arguably the best in the world in his position now and man of the match here – through to Murray, whose control was absolutely exemplary, to Rob Kearney at full-back, Ireland were everything England were not. They were clinical, disciplined, cohesive.

In his column for the Mail On Sunday, Clive Woodward described Ireland as the best-coached team in the Six Nations along with being World Cup contenders.

Ireland were excellent, the best team in the tournament by a distance. They are the best-coached side in Europe, with Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell missing nothing, and they have the best strength in depth, making light of big injury absences.

They are the most consistent in terms of selection, the calmest under pressure and probably the fittest side too. The Irish certainly look the freshest and most rested, with strong central control by the IRFU working brilliantly for the national team.

Congratulations to all concerned — Saturday was historic and impressive and all on St Patrick's Day. Life does not get much better and they are now poised to mount a massive challenge to New Zealand and all comers at next year's World Cup.

In Pictures: Ireland's Heroes Celebrate Their Grand Slam Triumph

PJ Browne
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