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Trip trip hooray Ireland defeat Scotland to bag Triple Crown... but what comes next really matters

"We struggled at times in the scrum yesterday – and that will have to be put right before we go to New Zealand in the summer"

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Ireland's Jonathan Sexton celebrates after the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton celebrates after the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton celebrates after the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Job done - we’ve won the Triple Crown by beating England, Scotland Wales, while gaining a four-try bonus point in each match.

You have to say that makes for a very good Six Nations Championship for an Irish team that is still growing and developing – and still has another year and a half of developing to do before the 2023 World Cup.

It wasn’t the most fluent performance by Ireland against Scotland at the Aviva, but then nothing much is ever fluent against Scotland in rugby.

They spoil, they graft, they ask questions of you – and while Ireland answered most of them, Scotland hung around in the game long enough to be ready to take advantage of any Irish stupidity.

But it is a mark of the maturity in this team that Ireland never looked flustered yesterday.

Once Ireland got the first try of the match, there was an air of inevitability about the win following.

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Scotland ended their campaign with defeat in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Scotland ended their campaign with defeat in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Scotland ended their campaign with defeat in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

We never truly gave our visitors a foothold in the match. And they could usually be relied upon to give away a penalty on the odd occasion we did conceded space and time to Scotland.

That said, as usual when it comes to Ireland, referee Wayne Barnes did us no favours.

Iain Henderson takes a forearm into the jaw, and there’s no card of any colour. A tackle to the face is supposed to be a red now.

Later Peter O’Mahony was clearly tackled by a Scottish player when he had both feet off the ground.

That’s a minimum yellow card according to the rules, no card shown.

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And then, at the end, Scotland’s sub Ben White is given a yellow card for deliberately knocking the ball on!

Come on, if we are concerned about player welfare, as big men thunder into each other in Test rugby, there is no comparison between those three incidents.

Ireland will be happy to have delivered the result under a bit of pressure to do so.

There is clear squad depth there now, even with the likes of our key prop Andrew Porter out injured.

Again, we struggled at times in the scrum yesterday – and that will have to be put right before we go to New Zealand in the summer.

You don’t want to be playing the All Blacks with a dodgy set-piece, they will feast on it.

That’s the next challenge now for Andy Farrell and his coaching team, to go to the Land of the Long White Cloud and win a Test match there later this year.

We’ve beaten them in Chicago and twice in Dublin, but we’ve never done it on their patch.

But it is what a team has to do if you are serious about making an impact at the World Cup.

England famously went to New Zealand in 2002, the year they won the World Cup, and won a series there.

That’s the level you have got to be operating at if good things are going to happen at the World Cup.

And then the challenge will be to beat the South Africans when they come to Dublin in November for the Autumn internationals as world champions.

It’s a never-ending cycle of seeking improvement. But not so much that we cannot savour winning the Triple Crown for only the 12th time in our history.

Yes, there should be bigger targets in our sights, but let’s no forget the little ones there to be secured on the way.

What did I like about Ireland yesterday? Well, there was the fast running and willingness to attack quickly from Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half, whenever we got a penalty.

He was always looking for the gap and he was always looking to get the ball into the hands of James Lowe and Mack Hansen out on the wings and Hugo Keenan at full-back.

There was a tempo and a movement to Ireland that was a delight at times, when they got a chance to strut their stuff.

Among the pack, No 2 Dan Sheehan was a deserved Man of the Match.

With himself and Ronan Kelleher battling for the jersey, we are set fair at hooker for a decade now.

Tadhg Beirne got through a mountain of work as always, and Caelan Doris continues to impress every time I see him in action.

And Josh van der Flier was once again excellent again at open-side flanker.

At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, it was a crazy decision by Lions coach Warren Gatland not to take Van de Flier to South Africa last summer. He’d have shone on the Tour and probably played in the Tests.

Of course Van der Flier’s omission wasn’t the only ‘daft as a brush’ selection call made back then.

I like the way all our subs came in and made some sort of impact against Scotland. That’s what you need nowadays in every match.

When it is getting harder and harder for players to go all the way in 80 minutes of international rugby, the subs have to come on and do the business in closing out the contest

Scotland will be disappointed by a number of aspects of their play yesterday.

Yet again, in the 2022 Six Nations, their discipline let them down as they gave away daft penalties.

Penalties that Ireland used to push Scotland back all the time towards their own try-line.

Ireland did scorn a couple of kickable penalties during the match, but it was clear that the bonus -point was very strong in Ireland’s imagination before this match.

We wanted tries, not three-point penalties, and though it took right into the 80th minute for Conor Murray to get it for the Boys in Green we can only regard this match, and this victory, as a job well done from our viewpoint.

It’s onwards and upwards now. We hope!

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