In his Sunday Times 'alternative review of the 2015 Six Nations' Stephen Jones names Robbie Henshaw at number three in his top five players of tournament. George Ford at number one, Sam Warburton at two, Blair Cowan at four and Sergio Parisse at five are the other members of the list.
Before the tournament began, Jones knocked what he called the Irish tendency to 'deify' any coach that brings success. He references this up once again in his top 3 'Premature Comparisons' which features at number three, 'JOE SCHMIDT WITH GOD'. That comparison "Didn’t look quite so justified after Ireland’s defeat by Wales" he tells us.
The Welsh writer has a definite man crush on Peter O'Mahony. He names the Munster backrow as his number one 'Old School Hard Man' of this year's Six Nations.
In his match report for Saturday's Twickenham epic, Jones cites two disadvantages which stood in the way of England claiming the title. The first of these was the opposition. France turned up whereas Scotland and Italy lay down feet in the air to have their bellies tickled and hopefully get some sort of Pedigree Chum dog treat in return.
No one can deny England’s efforts. But they had two severe disadvantages. One was the fact that on a day when Wales, Ireland and England knew they had to score big to take the title, only England ran into an opponent because Italy and Scotland were so token in their opposition in the other games and France, by contrast, were superb.
The other obstacle to English glory was their defence being porous enough to allow five French tries.
The sniping, bar his dislike of us apparently putting Joe Schmidt on an unwarranted pedestal, has been to a minimum from Jones this tournament. From our perspective, the only thing worse than a biased Stephen Jones is a balanced Stephen Jones (Update: SJ has come up trumps after all, he has more Italians than Irish in his team of the tournament).
In the same paper, Stuart Barnes believes that Ireland's attacking game will prosper.
Ireland, the third “top-tier” team, have been the most mysterious. Joe Schmidt has kept his attacking cards close to his chest or decided that the vagaries of the international game are no place for the delightful imagination Leinster brought to European rugby under his leadership. Until yesterday, Ireland were the team that took no risks. An increase in the off-loading game of men such as Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien could send Irish attacking play through the gears. Given Schmidt’s guile, don’t bet against added positivity.
Away from The Sunday Times' paywall, Oliver Brown writes in The Telegraph that the manner of the victory at Murrayfield showcased Ireland's credentials to win an even bigger prize than the Six Nations later this year.
When it mattered most, Ireland remembered how to entertain again. They had threatened to go through this Six Nations as austere automatons, respected rather than loved for their defensive frugality, but for one afternoon only they unleashed their buccaneering side. With a performance emphatically affirming their credentials to win this autumn’s World Cup, they brushed off accusations of a one-dimensional approach by proving that they could win any way they chose.
The Observer declare Paul O'Connell as the man of the day, though their report of his possible test match demise is a little premature. They laud him for getting "a rare try in his 101st and possibly final Test". We'll definitely be seeing Paulie in a green shirt come autumn.
They may not have won the title but the Welsh are taking some solace in beating the champions.
— WalesOnline (@WalesOnline) March 21, 2015
Iain Morrison for The Scotsman likened the Murrayfield game to an early summer Baa-Baas match.
It was a brilliant display of running rugby with two teams determined to throw the ball about; end-of-season Barbarian fixtures have boasted more structure than yesterday’s encounter which varied between helter and skelter and then back again.
Two fingers to the naysayers, that is what Ireland did with their performance against Scotland according to The London Independent's Robin Scott-Elliot.
The last miss, Madigan’s, was the final act of a breathless match that saw Ireland raise two fingers towards those who said they were too one-track to raise a sweat among the scoreboard operators. Aided by a compliant Scotland, Ireland did their best to retain their crown.
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE