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Ireland’s Farrell rejects talk of Six Nations ‘anti-climax’

Ireland's head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Ireland coach Andy Farrell insisted retaining the Six Nations title would be anything but an “anti-climax” after his side’s bid for back-to-back Grand Slams ended with a dramatic defeat by England.

Former England dual-code international Farrell could only watch as Marcus Smith’s last-ditch drop goal condemned Ireland to a 23-22 loss at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ireland remain firm favourites to retain the title and victory over Scotland in Dublin on the March 16 concluding ‘Super Saturday’, coinciding with St Patrick’s weekend celebrations, will put the issue beyond doubt.

They could still be crowed champions with a loss should England fail to record a bonus-point win away to France in Lyon.

So dominant were Ireland in the opening rounds, there were fears of this Six Nations being turned into a procession. 

But that no team have yet won successive Slams in the Six Nations era, with France the last side to achieve the feat in the 1998 Five Nations, is a reminder of how just how difficult it is to complete a clean sweep.

And Farrell urged Ireland fans smarting from Saturday’s reverse to keep what was just their team’s third loss in 23 Tests across all competitions in perspective.   

“Anti-climax? How many times have we (Ireland) won the Six Nations?,” he said. 

“Everyone would love to be in our position. We’ve got to make sure we’re loving that challenge as well.

“I’ve absolutely no doubt that they (Ireland supporters) 100 percent will be on song. Paddy’s weekend again, with the chance of winning a Six Nations.

“It could have been a little bit better but Grand Slams are unbelievably hard to come by. Six Nations are hard enough, as everyone would vouch for.”

There were already 80 minutes on the clock when Smith struck to deny Ireland, who appeared to have sealed victory though two tries by James Lowe and four Jack Crowley penalties.

Ireland had chances to deny the hosts field position late on but Farrell for one had no complaints with victory for a vibrant England whose pace, power and skill captivated a capacity crowd of over 81,000.  

“I thought we could have kicked longer and out,” said Farrell. “There’s one we kicked long and not out; the other one was out and a little bit short. But those are small bits that matter in the end.

“At the end of the day, I might sound stupid saying this but I thought it would have been unjust for England not to win the game. I thought they played really well.”

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