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Can we now seriously dream about a first World Cup success?

By Aidan Corr
England 15, Ireland 24
HOW could you describe Ireland’s grand slam winning performance today? Full of character, commitment, courage? Clinical, physical, workmanlike, professional? Awsome?
In each one of their five 6N victories, they followed a shrewd game plan, implemented it precisely, and when the opportunities presented themselves, they struck with ferocious accuracy.
Ok, we would have liked to have more Munster men in the matchday squad, but the four that did take part did us proud. Peter O’Mahony worked himself to a stand-still over his 70+ minutes. The lion-hearted Cork Constitution man’s inclusion guarantees a 100% contribution no matter what jersey he wears and his physicality, particularly in the opening half today, caused serious problems for the English. CJ Stander had another fine game and the manner in which he slid forward to reach the well-advertised post protectors for Ireland’s second try on 22 minutes highlighted his commitment to the cause.
Once again Keith Earls was hungry for the ball, popping up all over the field and eager to take carries that won precious yards at crucial periods of what was a tense and fiercely fought encounter. His hand trip on Elliott Daly in the final ten minutes saved a certain try when England threatened to spoil the party and level the tie with two late converted tries.
And what about Conor Murray? What can we say? We have watched the Patrickswell boy from his earliest days with St Munchin’s College, Young Munster and Garryowen and there was always something special about him. He was understudy to Gerry Hurley for a number of seasons at Dooradoyle but when he got his chance in the light blue colours he snapped up the opportunity. His goal-kicking ability was always a feature of his play, we often wondered why former Munster coaches never picked up on that, and he had the honour of scoring the first points at the re-developed Thomond Park Stadium when he kicked the only points of the game for Munster under 20s against Ulster in 2008.
The amount of work put in by Conor today was incredible by any standards. His reading of the play, his ability to put in crucial tackles, his kicking, passing and overall athleticism once again left us speechless and there is no doubt that he could name his price if he was to be approached by any club in world rugby on his current form.
Garry Ringrose, a relative of whom (Army Captain Ringrose) was from Clare Street in Limerick and was an international Irish showjumper, scored the opening try for Ireland today with Jonathan Sexton kicking the conversion after six minutes. Stander then bundled over with the out-half adding the extras for a 14-0 lead and with eight minutes played this game was going in the way of the green. England huffed and puffed and Elliott Daly got in for a try but Owen Farrell had the first of many misses by striking the conversion wide. A minute into injury time, Ireland got a crucial score. Jacob Stockdale chased a high kick, the England defence made a hash of it and the Ulster man made a spectacular dive to ground the ball a few inches from the dead ball line. Joey Carberry kicked the conversion and Ireland were full value for their 5-21 lead at the break.
England tried hard as the second half got underway but the Ireland defence was magnificent. Conor Murray kicked a penalty nine minutes into the second half to increase the lead to 5-24 but England replied with tries from Elliott Daly and Johnny May, Farrell failing from both conversions.
It was a St Patrick’s Day to remember for Irish rugby fans. The coaching staff had to make a few changes duringthe but Joey Carberry and Larmour in particular looked very comfortable when introduced.
This game also marked the ninth anniversary of the founding of this website, it being set up following the last grand slam by Ireland in March of 2009. Irish rugby is in a very good place tonight. A serious crop of players awaits harvesting between now and 2019 so are we now looking at an Irish squad who can win the World Cup in Japan? Let’s hope so.

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