O’Connell savours Six Nations win

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Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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Captain Paul O’Connell hailed Ireland’s history-makers after Joe Schmidt’s side secured back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles for the first time since 1949.

Ireland thumped Scotland 40-10 at Murrayfield to end Wales’ last-ditch title challenge, before watching television sets in agony as England battled it out with France at Twickenham.

Ireland set England the challenge of beating France by a 26-point margin to secure the Six Nations crown, and the 55-35 victory left Stuart Lancaster’s men short.

Ireland claimed successive Six Nations titles for just the second time in their history, emulating the feat of the great 1949 team led by Dr Jack Kyle.

“To win a championship any year is fantastic,” said O’Connell.

“I’ve spent a lot of years in close calls, and it’s been a great eight weeks.

“I think we’d be very proud of what we’ve done in the last eight weeks, in terms of how we’ve addressed certain things in our performance, in attack, defence and our resolve to come out and produce a good performance like that after losing last week.

“I’m very proud of this squad over the last eight weeks.”

Evergreen captain O’Connell set Ireland’s tone with the opening score at Murrayfield, replacing Fred Gardiner’s stat that had stood from 1909 as Ireland’s oldest try-scorer of all time.

O’Connell is now Ireland’s oldest captain of all time too, at 35 years and 152 days, and continues to defy the advances of time.

After registering his first Test try since November 2006, O’Connell admitted he could be satisfied with his effort should it prove his last Six Nations outing.

O’Connell may retire after the autumn World Cup, though is yet to make a final decision.

Ireland blew their Grand Slam chances with 23-16 defeat to Wales in Cardiff last weekend, but Schmidt insisted he remained “proud” of his players.

“I think we’ve done enough to come away from the game proud,” said Schmidt.

“For us, it’s a championship that we’ll probably have some regrets about, last week.

“But I think last week’s second-half performance did set us up and it was quite similar to our second-half performance this week.

“It’s just that we managed to get something more concrete in behind that and those 20 points in the second half could make the difference for us.”

England were forced to watch on in frustration from Rome last year as Ireland stole the title with victory over France in Paris.

Ireland boss Schmidt admitted it was a torturous experience having the roles reversed one season on.

“It is the system that it is,” said Schmidt, of the Six Nations’ Super Saturday triple-bill set-up.

“I think I can speak for all the players, that they love the championship.

“The Super Saturday that people have got, I know people who had put aside the three slots in the day, and had apportioned various amounts of beverage for each slot.

“And I just wish that I was able to join them to be honest, because I would rather have been doing that than being sat in the pressure-cooker that we were in.

“But at the same time I wouldn’t swap with anyone working with the group of men that I do, and the way that they prepare themselves and put their bodies on the line.”

Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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