Ireland boss Joe Schmidt keeps Grand Slam talk at bay
The New Zealander played down Grand Slam talk after his side defeated Wales 37-27.
Joe Schmidt insists no Grand Slam fever will infect Ireland’s “bubble” as his side edge ever closer to a NatWest 6 Nations title decider with England.
Jacob Stockdale took his Test match try tally to eight in seven caps with two scores, while Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy all crossed as Ireland thumped Wales 37-27.
Gareth Davies, Aaron Shingler and Steff Evans all grabbed tries for the Welsh, but Schmidt’s held firm to make it three wins in three in the tournament.
Ireland even shook off Johnny Sexton missing 10 points off the tee, with head coach Schmidt later insisting he merely has a bruised gluteus muscle.
A record-equalling 10th successive Test win now puts Ireland just two wins away from a first Grand Slam in nine years, with the last-weekend England clash slated for March 17 at Twickenham.
Asked if the Ireland squad can keep any Grand Slam talk at bay, Schmidt said: “It’s a lot easier for us than it is externally because we do live in a bit of a bubble through the championship.
“Every Tuesday the players train then leave and that’s when they might be a little more exposed to the hype.
“Wednesday is a down day, it allows them to freshen up.
“We try to break the rugby focus into the early and late part of the week.
“Once we’re in those phases it’s relatively easy.
“Next week will be trickier because we break up on Tuesday and the players will get a few days off then.
“In the early part of the week we won’t get too excited about what we’ve done because we’ve got a few things planned for them.
“You’ll see them working hard and rolling their sleeves up at the open session next week.”
Sexton carried a stiff back into the Wales clash at the Aviva Stadium and emerged at the other end with a bruised backside.
Conor Murray picked up a minor foot problem, but head coach Schmidt insists his British and Irish Lions half-backs will be fit to face Scotland in Dublin on March 10.
“Johnny just got a bit of dead glute, so he kind of copped a knee in the backside really,” Schmidt said of Sexton.
“Again at that stage of the game he could have stayed on and played on.
“But we’ve got a lot of confidence in Joey Carbery.
“We want to keep growing the group, and it was good for Joey. We felt he was well enough placed to control that last five minutes.
“Conor just got his foot trapped and twisted awkwardly, but he’s walking without any problems at all.
“I can imagine it will be a little bit sore.
“He and Johnny might well miss training on Tuesday but they will have well and truly earned it.”
Wales boss Warren Gatland admitted defeat ended any lingering chances of his side chasing the Six Nations title, but insisted they must now fight for a third-place finish.
Asked if two defeats is one too many to challenge for the title, Gatland said: “Yep.
“I think we’d already spoken about an opportunity to see some new players against Italy.
“So with two games left there’s chances for that.
“We’ve got to finish in the top three, that’s important for us as well.
“We’ll get some players into the squad without making too many changes, and look at building depth.”