Ireland soaking in the fringe benefits of capturing Grand Slam on home soil
"I'm getting some tour of this place."
When the functions, parties, pub hops and send-offs were over, the Ireland lads still found time to get over to Garry Ringrose and help him celebrate that 50th Test cap... again.
The success of Leinster and Ireland's winning Test Series down in New Zealand may give some the impression that Andy Farrell's men are picking up silverware like shells on a beach. Last year's Triple Crown was the first meaningful for Farrell, as head coach. 2023 was all about following through on potential.
So it proved at Aviva Stadium, on Saturday, as Ireland overcame a shaky first 30 minutes and a wobbly start to the second half to win 29-16 and clinch another Triple Crown and, more importantly, Six Nations title and Grand Slam.
Farrell, when reflecting on the achievement, was keen to stress that 32 players had logged championship minutes and 'another 15 or 16' that had been in training with, and prepping, the match-day squad. He was practically beaming when he spoke of the 50th cap presentations that had taken place in the nearby 'home' dressing room for Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier.
The 1948 Five Nations was Ireland's first Grand Slam, secured by a 6-3 win over Wales at Ravenhill, in Belfast. So, there has been a 'home' Grand Slam before but this was the first time such a triumph was secured in Dublin in this professional era. There are major benefits to winning big at home. When Ireland claimed the 2018 Slam, at Twickenham, each member of Joe Schmidt's squad only had two match tickets each to hand out to family and friends.
"I was there that day, in 2018, when we won it at Twickenham," former Munster and Ireland star James Downey told House of Rugby. "There were great scenes but most people were leaving the stadium, because they were English and you expect that. On Saturday, nobody left their seats for ages. Fans stayed in the ground for a long time and their was music blaring.
"Even when people were leaving, the players were still out on the field and just absorbing everything. And you want to have these moments... you don't want it to end."
Ireland celebrations rage on
Following the victory over England, RTÉ asked Ireland winger Mack Hansen what his plans were for the coming days. "Drink, drink, drink, drink," he remarked. "No we will enjoy it, run into some fans and get to share the experience with them."
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has said Mack Hansen has been leading the Grand Slam celebrations. Footage shared by players, their family and friends, and supporters that got to meet the Six Nations champions shows that Hansen is not the only one dragging fierce craic out of the tournament triumph.
Sexton's house has often been a go-to, in years past, for Leinster players looking to celebrate victories or landmark moments - Sean O'Brien was known for pulling out the odd tune in his kitchen - but the 2023 squad pitched up at another house to keep the party going.
A clip of a mini-bus full of Ireland players, shared widely on Wednesday, shows a Leinster cadre showing up at a house with the likes of Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole and Mack Hansen in tow.
As Munster captain O'Mahony salutes the camera, a voice cries out, "Pete, this is South County Dublin!"
"I'm getting some tour of the place," O'Mahony cracks back.
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Most of the Leinster players that featured in the bulk of the Six Nations games are off for the week and other provinces will be easing their Ireland players back over the next few games.
This is down-time for the players, and they are basking in and Grand Slam that was clinched in Dublin for the first time in the nation's history. Soon enough, it will be time to gear back up and go again.
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