Ireland eye Triple Crown - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ireland eye Triple Crown

By Julian Guyer 19/03/2010 02:42:38 PM Comments (0)

Ireland would love to end their residency at Croke Park with the Triple Crown and Scotland would love nothing more than to stop them when the teams wrap up their Six Nations' campaigns on Saturday.

It is a measure of Ireland's progress in recent years that some supporters are disappointed their heroes won't be in a position to go for back-to-back Grand Slams this weekend.

Irish clean sweeps, however, are rare - last year's was only their second in all and first since 1948.

For Ireland coach Declan Kidney, the prospect of a fifth Triple Crown (the award when one of the Home Nations of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales beats all the others in a single Six Nations campaign) in seven seasons is a prize well worth having.

"A genuine sports supporter would never become blase about winning a Triple Crown," Kidney said this week.

"Just look what happened to the (Irish) economy," he added in a reference to the Republic's financial downturn. "We took it for granted, then it was gone.

"The situation of winning a Triple Crown may also be gone in the future."

For the time being, however, it remains a very real possibility after a 27-12 win at home to Wales last weekend saw Ireland maintain their revival after last month's 33-10 loss to France.

An Ireland back division featuring the likes of captain Brian O'Driscoll, playmaking fly-half Jonathan Sexton and in-form wing Tommy Bowe is almost bound to create try-scoring chances at some stage.

Meanwhile locks Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell continue to provide Ireland with a steady supply of possession while even their much criticised scrum was able to shove Wales backwards when in sight of the Irish line.

And Ireland's all-round defensive solidity leaves Scotland with a tough nut to crack.

Scotland have yet to win in this Six Nations although that didn't stop Kidney warning of the damage they could cause in what will be the last rugby international at Croke Park before Ireland return to their redeveloped Dublin home of Lansdowne Road.

"The Scots are well-known for ruining a few Irish parties," Kidney said, although Scotland haven't beaten Ireland in the Six Nations since 2001.

Ireland, who could yet retain their title although they'll need France to implode spectacularly against England, will be firm favourites to make it nine Six Nations win in a row against a Scotland side still searching for their first victory in this season's tournament.

Scotland have though three-times come close to breaking their duck, losing to Wales only in a frantic final 10 minutes, pushing Italy hard and then having the better of last weekend's 15-15 draw with England, where fly-half Dan Parks twice hit the post with goalkicks.

However, Parks is proving a more reliable goalkicker than Sexton who missed several chances in Ireland's wins over England and Wales. So far his inaccuracy has not proved costly but one day it might.


Ireland: Geordan Murphy; Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Tomas O'Leary; Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Stephen Ferris; Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan; John Hayes, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tony Buckley, Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Robert Kearney.

Scotland: Hugo Southwell; Sean Lamont, Nick de Luca, Graeme Morrison, Max Evans; Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter (capt); Johnnie Beattie, John Barclay, Kelly Brown; Alastair Kellock, Jim Hamilton; Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Allan Jacobsen. Replacements: Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson, Richie Gray, Alan MacDonald, Mike Blair, Phil Godman, Simon Danielli.

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