Current Ireland squad compares well to 2009 squad, says Joe Schmidt
The Irish coach believes Ireland’s class of 2018 have the superstars to emulate Ireland’s last Grand Slam winners.
Joe Schmidt believes Ireland boast a crop of players to stand comparison with the Grand Slam winning team of 2009.
Ireland can stamp the class of 2018 into the NatWest 6 Nations history books with just a third-ever clean sweep with victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Head coach Schmidt insists Ireland’s current squad has stars to merit the same company as greats like Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell, who tasted Grand Slam success nine years ago.
The wary Kiwi fired a cautionary message to his players however, conceding England are “wounded but far from dead and buried” after two defeats.
Asked if Ireland have players to stand alongside those history-makers from 2009, Schmidt replied: “I think by evidence of pure performance and results, I think you’d have to say so.
“Three titles in five years; there are some very consistent personnel through that period.
“Rory Best, Peter O’Mahony, Devin Toner, Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, and there’s Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton obviously; all those players have been incredibly consistent through it, and so has Rob Kearney.
“I’m delighted for Keith Earls too, because he probably would have had two others but he was injured.
“And then there’s this young crew – James Ryan doesn’t know what it’s like to lose a Six Nations.
“There’s kids like that who need to understand what Johnny (Sexton) said, they need to understand that this doesn’t happen very often. This is incredibly tough to do.
“And the opportunity that now exists is really precious.”
Consecutive defeats to Scotland and France have derailed England’s bid for a record third-straight Six Nations title.
Ireland boss Schmidt expects Eddie Jones’ frustrated side to be hell-bent on venting some fury at Twickenham on Saturday however.
“I think they are going to be really dangerous,” said Schmidt, of England.
“I’ve seen them play often enough but I actually watched some of the England players train with the Lions.
“They have an exceptional level, and they have extreme pace.
“They’re wounded but far from dead and buried.
“They will certainly have huge resolve to come back and bounce back and beat us.”