Joe Schmidt says current Ireland squad compares to Grand Slam winners of 2009
Last Updated: 12/03/18 1:36pm
Joe Schmidt believes Six Nations champions Ireland boast a crop of players to stand comparison with the Grand Slam winning team of 2009.
Ireland secured a 28-8 bonus-point win over Scotland in Dublin on Saturday to move within one victory of their third Six Nations clean sweep, ahead of their clash against England at Twickenham this Saturday.
Head coach Schmidt believes Ireland's current squad has the talent to equal players such as Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, who claimed Grand Slam success nine years ago.
Asked if Ireland have players to stand alongside the 2009 squad, the Kiwi 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."
Schmidt expects Eddie Jones' England, who ended their hopes of a third successive title with a 22-16 defeat to France, to be tough opposition on Saturday.
"I think they are going to be really dangerous," said Schmidt. "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."