Ireland legend Paul O’Connell doesn’t think that Ireland’s players will be overawed by talk of a possible first Grand Slam since 2009.
Rather, O’Connell, Ireland’s third most capped player with a 108 caps, thinks that Joe Schmidt’s men will embrace it.
After wins over France, Italy and Wales allied to their really impressive strength in depth, many are tipping the men in green to not only pick up their third title in five years but to pick up a coveted Grand Slam in the process.
And the three-time Lions tourist feels that Ireland’s players shouldn’t pretend that a second Grand Slam in nine years wasn’t a distinct possibility,
“I don’t think you need to pretend that there isn’t a Grand Slam on, I don’t think you need to do that at all”, O’Connell told the Irish Independent.
But the 38 year-old, a member of the 2009 team who sealed a first Grand Slam in sixty-one years with a dramatic 17-15 win over Wales in Cardiff, doesn’t think that any talk of a clean sweep, will see them underestimate the dangerous Scots this weekend, citing their ability to take it one game at a time and not to look to far ahead as one of their ‘biggest strengths’,
“But one of the biggest strengths of the Irish team is that they don’t look too far head. They just talk about being next-moment focused. I’d say they won’t be looking much beyond the first half against Scotland, not to mention the England game”.
The two-time European Cup winner, now working as an assistant coach with Ireland’s U20 team, also stressed the Irish team’s ‘healthy respect’ for Scotland and Gregor Townsend and that Schmidt and his team were well aware of how good Townsend and co were – before once again emphasing that even though his former teammates would be aware that a Grand Slam was a distinct possibility, the only game on their mind would be Saturday’s,
“Listen, they chat to each other. They are well aware that there is a shot at a Grand Slam. They wouldn’t be burying there heads in the sand and pretending there isn’t. But at the same time, they won’t look beyond the first half against Scotland. That’s the policy and it always has been”.
If come Saturday evening Ireland are still unbeaten, talk of another Grand Slam will surely reach fever pitch.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena