‘It’s a cup final, it’s winner takes all’: Ireland primed for Grand Slam decider against England

THE EXCITEMENT LEVELS have been building all week and Nora Stapleton admits it’s a real boost to hear Friday night’s Six Nations game against England at Donnybrook is on course to be a sell-out.

With four wins apiece in the championship, Ireland and England have both got Grand Slam aspirations heading into the final weekend which sees the teams go head-to-head in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day.

England, as the only fully professional team in the competition, go in as heavy favourites having strolled past France, Italy, Scotland and Wales and Ireland face a huge task if they are to stop the visitors from winning a first Grand Slam since 2012.

“To be honest, in the squad, we don’t really talk about that [England being pro] at all,” Stapleton said yesterday. “It’s all about what we are going to do to try and stop them.

“You only ever look at what they are doing on the pitch. There is no point looking outside of that; we don’t look at their training, we don’t look at their lifestyles or anything like that.

“It’s how much we can disrupt their ball basically. But then again, the last couple of games that we have played England, the forwards have been dominant and I felt have had the upper edge on the English pack.

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“Looking at it, some of that has got to do with poor defence from the opposition. We’re not going to defend like that and that’s going to be one of the key differences.”

Ireland haven’t yet fired on all cylinders during the championship but have ground out four results to put themselves in a position to win a first title in two years.

It all bodes well for a home World Cup later this year and out-half Stapleton says home advantage can play a huge part on Friday night with a big crowd expected for the winner-takes-all clash.

“It’s a cup final, it’s winner takes all,” she says. “It’s nice to hear the public and supporters talking about it. Even your club-mates, you can hear them chatting about banners that they are making. They’re worried about getting tickets for the game, where they are sitting etc.

“Its nice to know that we have genuine fans out there who are very excited about coming to the game. Does in increase your performance? No, I would hope that we are already up there.

“I think what it can do though, is create that bit of buzz and it’s the reaction you get from the crowd.”

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