Johnny Sexton says it “would be the stuff of dreams” to captain Ireland to Grand Slam glory.
The world’s top-ranked side are on the brink of completing a Guinness Six Nations clean sweep going into next weekend’s Dublin showdown with England following Sunday’s chaotic 22-7 success in Scotland.
Influential fly-half Sexton has won the tournament three times during his career, including a Grand Slam in 2018, but is yet to do so since being appointed skipper after the 2019 World Cup.
The 37-year-old is relishing a rare opportunity to become champions in front of an Irish crowd at the Aviva Stadium, having clinched his previous titles away from home.
“It was a very special day (against Scotland) but ultimately a semi-final and the big one is next week,” he said.
“It would be the stuff of dreams really. It’s what you grow up wanting to do.
“I don’t know why you grow up wanting to be captain of Ireland, maybe because the players you admire the most were captains, but to do it would be dream-come-true stuff.
“It’s a great group of lads, so to lead them is very special. Who wouldn’t be proud?
“It’s going to be a big week, there will be lots of hype, plenty of distractions, tickets and family and all that and we need to get down to business and get a big performance.”
England were emphatically removed from championship contention by Saturday’s chastening 53-10 Twickenham defeat to France.
Fabien Galthie’s reigning champions, who were defeated 32-19 by Ireland in round two and finish the competition at home to Wales, are now the only team with a chance of pipping Andy Farrell’s men to the title.
Sexton insists dispatching Steve Borthwick’s wounded side will be far from straightforward.
“It’s obviously dangerous because they’ve nothing to play for but it will mean a hell of a lot to us to play at home and to try and win something at home,” he said.
“The times when we have won things, they’ve all been away from home. That’s something we acknowledged from the start that doesn’t come around too often, so it will hopefully be a special day.
“They’re going to be hurting. They’re going to be wanting to show what playing for England means to them and they’re a good team, they’re a better team than they showed (against France).”
Ireland lost five key players – Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher and Garry Ringrose – to injury during a disorderly Edinburgh contest, but dug in for a vital victory.
Sexton’s seven points, which added to tries from Mack Hansen, James Lowe and Jack Conan, drew him level with former international team-mate Ronan O’Gara as the championship’s all-time leading points scorer on 557.
“Rog (O’Gara) will be paying me off to try and retire now,” he joked.
“It’s obviously a nice thing. Hopefully (I will) get back on the pitch next week and it’s all about winning. These other things they can come along but they’re not at the forefront of my mind.”
Ireland head coach Farrell expects his native country, captained by son Owen, to be intent on ruining St Patrick’s weekend for the hosts.
“They certainly will be hurting,” he said. “It’s a perfect opportunity to come and spoil the party, that’s the reality.
“That will be massive motivation for them.
“Is that bigger motivation than what we’re going to experience playing at home for a Grand Slam on Paddy’s weekend? We’ll see.”