Ireland win Six Nations: How Joe Schmidt's side claimed the title
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 11/03/18 1:30pm
Ireland are the 2018 Six Nations champions a week early after England failed to win in Paris.
Much in the same way as last year, when England were confirmed Six Nations winners ahead of their final game in Dublin after Ireland's loss in Wales, Joe Schmidt's side will head to Twickenham seeking a Grand Slam in a role reversal with England.
Just twice since 1883 have Ireland won the ultimate Six Nations gong - the Grand Slam - here's how they're in that position...
France 13-15 Ireland, Saturday February 3
It all started in the most dramatic of circumstances as a 45-metre drop goal from Johnny Sexton with the very last kick of the game - and after 41 phases - ensured Ireland got their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start in France.
That vital moment of skill looks all the more valuable now, and if you take Rome out of the equation, it is - remarkably - the only away victory of the tournament so far.
At the same time, England beat Italy in Rome with a bonus-point and Wales did likewise at home over Scotland, placing Ireland third in the table at that point.
Ireland 56-19 Italy, Saturday February 10
The second week of the tournament saw Schmidt's men score eight tries against the Azzurri at the Aviva Stadium, as they registered their first bonus-point success of 2018.
England ground out a tight victory over Wales in Twickenham the same day, while Scotland overcame France in Murrayfield. But, crucially, neither earned a bonus-point.
Ireland 37-27 Wales, Saturday February 24
This was perhaps the weekend at which Ireland really started to believe the title was firmly on as they beat a confident Wales side in Dublin, scoring five tries in the process in a real topsy-turvy encounter.
Ireland had trailed 13-5 after 31 minutes as Wales responded to Jacob Stockdale's early try to lead through Gareth Davies' converted score and two Leigh Halfpenny penalties.
Further Ireland tries from Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy, Cian Healy and a last-minute Stockdale intercept score secured a critical bonus-point win.
Later that same Saturday, England crashed to a dramatic 25-13 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield - their first to the Scots for some 10 years. Crucially, they didn't register even a losing bonus-point in Edinburgh.
Ireland 28-8 Scotland, Saturday March 10
As a result of that, Ireland knew if they could earn a bonus-point victory over Scotland in Dublin, they would force England to win in Paris with a bonus-point.
Despite some early jitters in the form of handling errors and missed tackles, Ireland recovered to score through Jacob Stockdale (twice) and Conor Murray, before Sean Cronin crashed over for the all-important bonus point, placing massive pressure on England.
At the Stade de France, Eddie Jones' side never got going, with the breakdown once again a major area of weakness - as it had been in Scotland.
They very nearly recovered - despite giving away 16 penalties - to win the game at the last, but they never threatened to score four tries, meaning Ireland could celebrate a week early, France claiming a 22-16 win on the day.
England v Ireland, Saturday March 17
All attentions now turn to whether Ireland can achieve that all-so-elusive Grand Slam at Twickenham.
Schmidt has yet to guide a side to a win in the English capital or claim a Grand Slam while in charge - though he did secure back-to-back title wins in 2014 and 2015.
What the men in green would now give to have some of the luck of the Irish on St Patrick's Day...