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'We fear no team in the world and we've proven on our day we can compete with the best'

Rob Kearney produced another vintage performance on the big stage.

Kearney celebrates with the Six Nations trophy.
Kearney celebrates with the Six Nations trophy.
Image: Laurence Griffiths

ROB KEARNEY — THE only player to start in two Grand Slam-winning Tests for Ireland, and it was fitting that the fullback would produce such an outstanding performance on the day Joe Schmidt’s side made history.

Kearney had spoken earlier in the week about how he went into his shell for Ireland’s last Grand Slam victory in 2009, but that certainly wasn’t the case this afternoon at Twickenham.

The 31-year-old followed up his man-of-the-match display against Scotland last week with another faultless performance at 15, as he consistently showed strength to spin out of tackles and make yards for Ireland.

There was also his involvement in Ireland’s first try as Kearney’s aerial ability caused Anthony Watson all sorts of problems, allowing Garry Ringrose to pounce on the loose ball and set the visitors on their way to a famous win.

Schmidt’s side not only augmented a third Six Nations title in five years with a third Grand Slam crown, but recorded a 12th straight Test victory heading in to the summer tour of Australia and next year’s World Cup.

“It’s so special,” Kearney said afterwards. “I can’t really put into words just yet. We’ve worked so hard, we’ve a fantastic group of players. The coaching staff, the amount of effort they put in. We’re over the moon, it’s incredible.

“It shows we’ve come on a huge amount in the last few years, we fear no team in the world and on our day we can compete with the best. Over the last 12 months we’ve proved that and it’s just about doing that over the next 18 months because the World Cup is this team’s goal.”

England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship Kearney celebrates with family at Twickenham. Source: Brendan Moran

Captain Rory Best, another double Grand Slam winner, echoed those sentiments at full-time, as he struggled to find the words to explain what the achievement meant to the players and their families.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “Massively proud. We knew it was going to be a really tough match, it was a ferocious Test match. We knew we’d have to produce a big performance and everyone did that.

“Words can’t describe how much that win means. I couldn’t be prouder of the boys and everyone involved.”

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Ryan Bailey

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