Schmidt: England win would top lot

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Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt believes beating England in Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam eliminator in Dublin would represent Ireland’s “biggest win” in his Test tenure.

Schmidt feels victory over England would not just cement Ireland’s bid to retain the Six Nations title, but would also boost hopes for the autumn World Cup by toppling this year’s host nation.

Only wins over England and New Zealand elude Schmidt’s Test run with Ireland, who can equal their record 10 consecutive wins at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

“It would be the biggest win we’ve had so far, without a doubt,” he said.

“The position we’re in, what we’ve got to play for, the year that’s in it, the players that have come in and out of the squad: there’s a number of things that it would be great to give that confidence to the players, to know that they’re capable of doing it.

“Also, for us, it will be a massive game because we have had unbelievable support in the Aviva.

“Against the French, that support reached a new volume in recent times.

“I don’t think we’ve ever quite had it like we had it against New Zealand in November 2013, but I think this Sunday it will get close to that.

“If we can be in the game, at the death, and get our noses in front, I think it would be just reward for the effort the players have made and just reward for those people who come and support us and provide a degree of inspiration to the players.”

England edged Ireland out 13-10 at Twickenham in last year’s Six Nations, in a defeat that still rankles with boss Schmidt despite his side claiming the 2014 European crown.

Schmidt’s men are unbeaten at the Aviva Stadium since their agonising 24-22 defeat to New Zealand in November 2013, while victory over England would leave Ireland the only side capable of securing a Grand Slam this term.

Schmidt believes facing England will prove a true acid test of Ireland’s progress in the last 12 months.

“To be absolutely honest, we’ll find out on Sunday whether we’re good enough now,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard this week, we’re going to role up our sleeves on Sunday and try to manufacture enough opportunities that we can get that fine margin to swing in our favour.”

Loosehead prop Jack McGrath has held off the charge of fit-again British and Irish Lion Cian Healy to make his first start against England.

Despite protestations and platitudes to the contrary from the Ireland squad this week, victory over England is prized above any other.

McGrath admitted Ireland are desperate to end a run of four defeats to England, but the 25-year-old conceded calm heads will be crucial to any chance of triumphing.

“Definitely it would be the biggest win for me and I would remember it for the rest of my life,” the Leinster front-rower said.

“We haven’t beaten them for a while now and the fans will be baying for blood.

“Every game is huge but this is different on an emotional level.

“You have to set the emotions aside but there will be fire in my belly.

“I musn’t get too excited too early.”

Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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