The Six Nations is serious business, but Andy Farrell and Ireland couldn’t help but laugh at half-time during Sunday’s victory over Scotland at Murrayfield.

While Ireland went in at the break with their nose in front, Farrell and his players found themselves in a state of amused disbelief after a brutal opening period that left the world’s number one side battered and bruised.

Ireland have been no strangers to losing key players in this year’s championship but they were left scrambling for a back-up plan after Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan and Iain Henderson were forced off inside the opening 24 minutes against Scotland.

And with Ronan Kelleher, Sheehan’s replacement, also nursing a shoulder problem, Farrell admits there was “organised chaos” in the Ireland dressing room at the interval.

“If you had seen us at half-time, you would have laughed because all the team were laughing,” said Farrell.

“It was organised chaos. We didn’t know what was happening until the last second, whether Ronan was coming back on or not.”

Leading 8-7, Ireland started the second half with flanker Josh van der Flier throwing the ball at the line-outs because of Kelleher’s shoulder issue.

Then when Kelleher was forced off eight minutes after the restart, prop Cian Healy was drafted in as a makeshift hooker.

It led to a remarkable sequence in which Healy helped Ireland win a penalty scrum with Sexton kicking the ball out for a line-out. From Van der Flier’s throw, the Irish kept possession before Mack Hansen plucked a booming Jamison Gibson-Park box-kick out of the sky.

Hansen offloaded to Johnny Sexton, with Gibson-Park eventually finding James Lowe to score Ireland’s second try and deal a crucial blow to Scotland’s hopes.

“We made half a plan with Cian going to scrummage because he’s good at that,” Farrell added.

“That paid off for us. Josh throwing in – what can’t he do, you know? He took up golf three years ago and is in single figures in his handicap, so what can’t he do?”

The circumstances around Ireland’s win led Farrell to say: “Obviously it wasn’t champagne rugby all round, but as far as character and fight and want for each other, that’s the best game I’ve ever been involved in.”

In addition to Doris, Sheehan, Henderson and Kelleher, there was concern for centre Garry Ringrose, earning his 50th cap, who was carried off on a stretcher with a head injury following a collision with Blair Kinghorn.

However, with Farrell having sounded hopeful about Sheehan and Doris’ fitness before hosting England next week, the Ireland head coach also had a positive update about Leinster’s Ringrose.

“I was texting his mother and father because they’re very concerned,” said Farrell.

“There were safety checks and precautions, but he was up and talking so, hopefully, he’s going to be fine.”

‘It’s what dreams are made of’

Victory over Scotland means Ireland are one win away from their first Grand Slam since 2018 as they prepare for the World Cup later this year in France.

To achieve that, they must carve out one last win in Dublin against an England side who were humiliated by France at Twickenham on Saturday.

And having overcome Wales, France, Italy and Scotland, Farrell says battling England with the Grand Slam on the line for his side will provide a fitting climax to the championship – particularly as the match falls on the day after St Patrick’s Day.

“It is what dreams are made of. To play England at home on the last weekend, on St Paddy’s weekend, for a Grand Slam, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Farrell.

“We’ll have a few down days to get our legs back and then we’ll have a hit-out or two and get our plan together and make sure we’re in the right space for training.”

Saturday’s match against England will be a huge occasion for every Ireland player, but it could be extra special for captain Sexton, who returned against Scotland after sitting out the defeat of Italy in Rome.

If Ireland beat England, Sexton will have captained his country to a Grand Slam on home soil, while if he scores, he will surpass predecessor Ronan O’Gara as the highest points scorer in Six Nations history.

There can be no greater incentive for Sexton, but he is wary of facing an England side desperate to bounce back.

“It would be stuff of dreams really. It’s what you grow up wanting to do,” he said.

“We need to just get down to business and have a big performance because they will be hurting and wanting to show what playing for England means for them.

“They are a good team, a better team than they showed.”

On surpassing O’Gara’s record, Sexton joked: “Rog [O’Gara] will be trying to pay me off to retire now.

“It’s a nice thing. Hopefully I’ll get back on the pitch next week. It’s all about winning. These other things come along but they are not in the forefront of my mind.”

Source: BBC

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