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Why a Triple Crown is never a bad return in the season that Ireland have to play England and France away

Dan Sheehan of Ireland is tackled by Kyle Sinckler of England during the Six Nations Rugby Championship match between England and Ireland at Twickenham

Dan Sheehan of Ireland is tackled by Kyle Sinckler of England during the Six Nations Rugby Championship match between England and Ireland at Twickenham

Mick Galwey

The most important stat in any sporting contest is the final scoreline.

Those numbers are all that will ever be seen in the history books.

And 32-15 for Ireland against England at Twickenham is as sweet as it gets.

A bonus point bagged, England kept tryless, and a double-score win. I'll take that all the time.

Now we face Scotland next Saturday in the Aviva Stadium with the Triple Crown on the line and maybe the Championship too, if England can do us a favour when they go to Paris.

A Triple Crown is never a bad return in the season that Ireland have to play England and France away.

But no, I am not blind to what went on for long stretches of the match yesterday in south-west London.

Our set-pieces, our bread-and-butter, the scrum, the line-out and the restarts were awful.

We were playing against 14 men for all but 80 seconds of the game- and yet we only nailed down our victory in the last few minutes of an exciting contest.

There are two ways of doing it when you are playing with a man advantage.

You can slow the game down, get the set-pieces right and calmly think your way through the contest.

The other way is the path Ireland took, to look to run the 14-men off their feet.

Even though our scrum was going backwards, even we were losing line-out ball, even we were giving away daft penalties, every time Ireland got the ball they were flinging it out at James Lowe or Hugo Keenan to let them do their stuff with ball in hand.

We wanted to move the ball around the pitch to attack the staying power of an England pack that was bigger and stronger than ours, but which was hampered by Charlie Ewels's moment of madness.

Johnny Sexton and Marcus Smith share a word after the Guinness Six Nations match in Twickenham. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton and Marcus Smith share a word after the Guinness Six Nations match in Twickenham. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It paid off, for England's starters still on the pitch for the last ten minutes were blatantly out on their feet.

Ireland won every collision, every tackle in that space of time, and we got the two tries, the one that sealed the victory, the other nailed down the bonus point.

I know Jamison Gibson-Park got the Man of the Match award, but Lowe and Keenan were both immense in taking on the running, with Tadhg Beirne, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris doing their best in open play from among the forwards.

The video review of this match over the next couple of days will be an uncomfortable watch for the Irish front and second rows.

We haven't become a bad scrum team overnight. But England's demolition job on the scrum just shows the lack of front-row depth behind Andrew Porter and Ronan Kelleher.

Some of it was down to French referee Mathieu Raynal who was all on for a scrap in the scrum.

But he seemed content to give the Red Rose the benefit of the doubt, even when Ireland had claims for penalties - much to Tadhg Furlong's frustration at times.

Porter is a massive loss, but I say it yet again, we cannot trust on getting through a World Cup with just our front-liners.

It won't happen like that in France in 18 months time, the men ready to step in have to be there. At the moment, though, things look skinny in that department

Andy Farrell has to look in the mirror too. Second row Ryan Baird played really well for Ireland two weeks ago against Italy - yet he was left out of the 23 yesterday.

Iain Henderson took his place and then had to come in after a minute and a half when James Ryan had to go off.

Injury-hit Henderson just hasn't played enough rugby in the last five months to be playing for Ireland.

To say he was rusty yesterday is an insult to rust. Henderson gave away three penalties and coughed up the ball a few times.

It was not fair on him, and it was not fair on Baird to lose his place in the squad and see his replacement play like that.

Andrew Conway finished the match strongly and was at the heart of the decisive third try that Jack Conan scored.

But he missed a few high balls that are normally his meat and drink and Mack Hansen is another man who will be looking for his place back.

He too was left out of the 23 for Twickenham and must be wondering about what he saw for long stretches of the match yesterday.

Robbie Henshaw too, is another man who will be looking for a start against Scotland.

Yesterday's physical contest ought to have been a perfect stage for Bundee Aki to shine.

But he didn't and Henshaw has that touch of class about him that will help to open up the Scottish defence.

Scotland weren't great against Italy yesterday and with the home crowd behind them, Ireland can bag a Triple Crown next Saturday.

And we've still won few enough of them in our rugby history to value such a victory.

Victory in the Championship itself depends on England now doing us a favour.

They can beat France in Paris, if they play with the confidence and passion of yesterday.

But even allowing for playing with 14 men, there was little enough England attacking threat yesterday from their backs.

It was all about grunt up front.

England are looking at losing three games in the Six Nations for back-to-back seasons.

That thought alone will drive them forward against France.

I thought France were poor against Wales on Friday night, with dropped passes and plenty of indiscipline.

Certainly if they'd played like that against Ireland last month, we'd have beaten them.

The pressure in on France to get the Grand Slam. It's the sort of thing you need to do if you are going to go well in a World Cup.

But they know that to get a Grand Slam in 2023, they will have to win in both London and Dublin.

The French may thus sense it is now or never for them.

For Ireland it is a Triple Crown that is within our own control.

Let's go out and get it, but this time Andy Farrell has to make the right selection calls.


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