‘Grand Slam’ – the two words that are not being uttered around Ireland’s training base at Carton House, among the players and coaching staff at least (apparently).
But with the assembled Irish media it is being talked about and rightly so. The fact is Ireland are the only side left in this year’s Natwest 6 Nations that can achieve the feat.
But in each and every interview Ireland try to play it down. It does of course come from the top – Joe Schmidt. After the Wales win at the Aviva I asked the Ireland head coach about how the team would deal with the Grand Slam hype, his answer was typical.
“It is actually a lot easier for us than it is externally, because we do live in a bit of a bubble through the Championship and every Tuesday we train in the morning and players leave Tuesday afternoon and that’s when they might be a little bit exposed to the hype because they have effectively… Wednesday is a down day, they go back home and have a day off and that allows them to freshen up and so we try and break the rugby focus into the early part of the week, later part of the week and once we’re into those two parts of the week it’s relatively easy.”
Well it was Tuesday before the players broke up for their day off and Tadhg Furlong faced the throng of journalists.
“I wouldn’t say it’s banned, it’s just not talked about. It’s no different to any other week – where you can’t start looking ahead at if’s, but’s or maybe’s – you’re very much task orientated at the game ahead. How do you eat an elephant? You eat it bite by bite don’t you. So it really is game-on-game for us and we’ve a massive one this weekend.”
The next classic way of trying to extinguish any trophy chatter – play up the opposition and Furlong did it with aplomb. Don’t forget Ireland lost 27-22 to Scotland on the opening day of last year’s Six Nations.
“We gave them a huge head start which in the Six Nations is never easy to claw back. We’ve learned a lot from that loss, you have to start well and we have to be able to defend our wide attacking game.”
“They’re playing really good rugby at the minute, they’re a massive threat both over the ball and in attack.”
Next in the media room – Conor Murray. He extolled the virtues of his opposite number Greig Laidlaw and reminded everyone of the Clermont Auvergne man’s potency from the tee.
“He doesn’t miss really, particularly inside our 10 (yard line), so like any international kicker if you cough up penalties on the bounce he’s going to make it 3, 6, 9 and then the game might get away from you.”
Conor Murray looks forward to clash with Greig Laidlaw
The Munster man also talked up Scotland’s in-form attack.
“Out wide with the likes of Hogg, Seymour, Maitland and Huw Jones, all these guys are really fizzing at the moment,you’ve got to be ready for their threats”.
All wonderful media performances that will have delighted Joe Schmidt, the players have earned their day off.
That rest will Furlong some more time to rest that hamstring. Furlong pulled up in the opening three minutes of Ireland’s win over Italy and missed the subsequent game with Wales.
“I came through a full training session today so it feels really good.”
“I’d like to say I’m moving well, but I never move well, but I am moving as well as I can!” he quipped.
At least he supplied a laugh after trying to avoid the elephant in the room.
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