Ireland got their 2017 Six Nations campaign back on track at the weekend with a resounding and humiliating 63-10 defeat of Italy in Rome, with CJ Stander and Craig Gilroy both bagging hat-tricks in the nine try rout.
Munster rugby fans will be less than surprised with yet another incredible performance from the 26-year-old South Africa born back-row forward. The man who was regarded as too small for rugby in his native country has been nothing short of an unstoppable revelation since his move to Limerick.
In the green of Ireland, the flanker has only been getting better and on Saturday he truly announced himself in the competition with a record breaking display.
Reported by RTE, after two rounds of the competition, Stander leads the way in defenders beaten, with a whopping 11 Italian’s beaten at the Stadio Olimpico. Left in his wake is France’s Louis Picamoles who accounted for eight Scotland defenders on Sunday.
His hat-trick was the first ever in the competition by an Ireland forward. Adding Gilroy’s own 14-minute hat-trick, it is the first time that two players from the same side achieved the feat in a single game since 1914.
Only on the field a mere 32 minutes, Gilroy made an incredible 88 metres against the hapless Italian defence, two more than Scotland’s elusive fullback Stuart Hogg.
Given that the Italians managed to mount a sterner challenge for the Welsh last weekend, Ireland’s massive bonus point win will go a long way in the points difference column of the final table come March 18th.
However, with the dominant England, rejuvenated France and in-form Scotland all still to face the whipping boys of the Six Nations, you can expect that now comfortable points lead to evaporate over the course of the championship.
As for Stander, Gilroy and the rest of the Ireland squad, all eyes will now be on the visit of France in two weeks time.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
This week’s edition of The Oval Office, we speak with Niall Ronan, David Arnott and talk all things Six Nations.