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Hartley on course to return for England against Ireland

13 March, 2018, 11:21 | Author: Hannah Francis
  • France 22-16 England Red Rose surrender Six Nations title as they are beaten in Paris

Ireland can win their third Grand Slam if they beat England on Saturday.

The 58-year-old Australian - who prior to the Six Nations had suffered just the one defeat since taking over after the 2015 World Cup debacle - said defeat helps in the evolution of great sides.

The 2007 World Cup in France, quarter-final exits in both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups and even a disappointing Six Nations showing previous year which saw Ireland fall to two defeats to Scotland and Wales are a stark and painful reminder to how quickly aspirations and confidence can be derailed. "I am not a punter but I had a small punt on them for the Slam".

It is their third under coach Joe Schmidt, who took over the job in April 2013. "I don't think we should get too carried away or too melodramatic about where we are".

"For any competition that is a good starting point".

"The amount of tries they have scored in and around the ruck - they will back themselves going to a line-out and producing". Eddie Jones's honeymoon is over, he is about to experience the other side of being the England coach.

"They will push England bloody close", he said.




Ireland's win over Scotland at the weekend and England's loss to France, means the two teams swap position on the rankings table. Stockdale now has 10 tries in just eight Test appearances, while he is only the second player in championship history to score multiple tries in three successive Four/Five/Six Nations games.

O'Driscoll insisted the Irish won't ease to victory, though. Jordi Murphy later made a significant impact during his 25-minute cameo off the bench, while try scorer Sean Cronin and Jack McGrath also added to Ireland's forward play in the latter stages.

"It's not as if we can't play rugby, we know we've got good players as they've played for the Lions and won games for England", said Jones.

"Every good team goes through this period".

Schmidt believes the likes of Best, Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy and Kearney have the stature of the 2009 stars such as O'Driscoll and fly-half Ronan O'Gara. "If you look at the video, instead of going over the top, if he went to Stuart Hogg, I think it was curtains there".

Eddie Jones concedes the breakdown deficiencies exposed during the demise of England's NatWest 6 Nations title defence could persist until the World Cup. They have, South Africans will not so fondly remember, beaten the Springboks, New Zealand and England in that time.

"They're wounded, but they're far from dead and buried".

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