An emotional Joe Schmidt revealed that the most pleasing aspect of Ireland’s Grand Slam was seeing the senior players get the reward they deserved.
The Irish head coach watched his side see off England 24-15 at Twickenham, having already wrapped up the NatWest 6 Nations title a week early.
However, the triumph on Super Saturday ensured that Ireland also secured only their third Grand Slam in their history on St Patrick’s Day.
When asked what pleased him most about Ireland achieving the Grand Slam, he said: “That Rory Best started the game that he deserved and got the reward. He’s led incredibly well.
“Johnny Sexton got the Grand Slam that he’s been craving.
“It’s a fantastic day for those senior guys. I think the young guys, they think you can get one of those by just working hard and they’ll pop up, but they don’t.
“The senior guys know that so it’s a fantastic day for them.”
First-half tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale opened up a commanding 21-5 lead for Schmidt’s side at the half-time break.
A brace for Elliot Daly and Jonny May’s try at the death reduced the deficit for the hosts, but it was not enough to prevent a third consecutive defeat.
Sexton, whose last gasp drop-goal helped Ireland edge out France in the opening game of the championship, had previously admitted he had feared his chance at the Grand Slam had passed him by.
The fly-half was part of the Irish team that appeared on course to achieve the feat back in 2015 when Wales upset the script by winning 23-16 in Cardiff.
“There were a few times when we came so close,” he said at Twickenham, having finally completed his ten-year quest to add a Grand Slam to his list of achievements.
“I remember going to Wales away and Scotland at home to finish and we were talking about it then and we came up short. It was Paul O’Connell’s 100th cap.
“Trying to do it for him was maybe too much pressure at the time. I thought it was going to evade us.”
For Rory Best, who joined Brian O’Driscoll and Karl Mullen in the elite club of captaining Ireland to Grand Slam glory, he was in no doubt that the achievement was the highlight of his career.
He said: “For me personally, it’s a little bit more special [than the Grand Slam in 2009].
“Not only starting every game, but captaining the side. Every kid grows up dreaming of playing for Ireland and when you do that the next thing you want to do is win something for Ireland.
“To win something as captain in that special green jersey, it’s something that dreams are made of.”