Ireland say there is still room for growth

by AAP

Ireland may have achieved only their third Grand Slam with a clinical Six Nations win over England but head coach Joe Schmidt said there was still a long way to go to the finished article.

The 52-year-old, who has masterminded a renaissance in a side that was demoralised when he took it over after the 2013 championship, said he was pleased with the blend of experience and youth that had shown few nerves and held England at bay.   

For Schmidt it was mission accomplished for the Six Nations - he had guided them to successive titles in 2014-15 but never the Triple Crown or Grand Slam - with the tour to Australia in June and the Rugby World Cup in 2019 the main target for him before he likely steps down. 

"It's incredibly hard to predict," said Schmidt referring to the future prospects.

"They are growing and getting better and understanding more but there is still a long way to go for those players."

Schmidt, who also has guided the Irish to a national record 12 successive Test wins and counting, said young players were standing up and proving themselves but the spine of the team was still the experienced hands.

"To be honest, we rely still on the same hub," said Schmidt.

"Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray were immense today, CJ (Stander) and Peter O'Mahony were fantastic.

"The newish players though stood out as well

"James Ryan is getting better all the time. Tadhg Furlong is still young for a tighthead, Andrew Porter coming on to lock the scrum down at only 21.

"Youthful enthusiasm is being tempered by the experienced guys who have been here before and that blend is working very well for us."

His skipper, the grizzled hooker Rory Best, certainly fits into the "experienced guys" group but the 111-times capped 35-year-old wasn't going to make too many long-term predictions either.

"I think it really depends," said Best.

"We're really happy with today. We wanted a Grand Slam and I think we'll look beyond that at a later date.

"It all depends on how we kick on."