Andy Farrell’s outfit are just one win away from the history books. Defeat England on Saturday in Dublin – on St Patrick’s weekend, no less – and they will win the Six Nations title, the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown. Ranked No 1 in the world, this Irish team are a runaway train, tearing through opponent after opponent. Scotland tried to derail them, as did a series of injuries, centre Garry Ringrose’s the most serious, but could not manage. Not even losing two hookers in Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher seemed to make an impact, with flanker Josh van der Flier deputising as thrower from lineouts in the latter stages of the match.
"It was immense, the character," said Farrell afterwards. "Obviously it wasn't champagne rugby all round but as far as character and fight and want for each other, that's the best game I've ever been involved in. If you'd have seen us at half-time you'd have laughed. The whole team was laughing because it was organised chaos. We didn't know what was happening until the last second, whether Ronan was coming back on or not and we made half a plan with Cian [Healy]. It was deserved for somebody like Garry on his 50th cap that we were able to do a special performance against all the controversy."
The controversy Farrell eluded to arrive in just the second minute when Ireland had a try ruled out because the wrong ball was being used. It became a moot point given the result, unlike fitness concerns over a number of players. There were major fears when Ringrose left the pitch on a stretcher after a sickening collision with Blair Kinghorn’s hip. “I was texting his mother and father, there, because they're very concerned," Farrell said. "There were safety checks and precautions, there, around necks but he was up and talking so, hopefully, he's going to be fine.”
Ireland will take it easy over the next couple of days. Rest and recuperation is required. Then the hype will go into overtime on the Emerald Isle. Many Irish fans have hoped that this group of players could deliver a glittering 2023, given it is also a World Cup year. That hope has now turned, in some quarters, to expectation. England will turn up a wounded animal after their thumping defeat from the French at Twickenham but play close to their best and Irish eyes will be smiling.
"It is what dreams are made of,” Farrell replied when asked what it would be mean to finish off with a win over Steve Borthwick’s outfit. “To play England at home on the last weekend, on St Paddy's weekend, for a Grand Slam, it doesn't get any better than that. We'll have a few down days to get our legs back and then we'll have a hit-out or two and get our plan together and make sure we're in the right space for training."