Ireland lays down rugby early marker

DUBLIN – Not for the first time Ireland have raised expectations of an elusive World Cup breakthrough by delivering Six Nations success just as the tournament comes into view.

Triple crown, grand slam or championship victories have sent Ireland to the last three World Cups confident of losing the tag as the sole top eight world ranked side never to have progressed beyond the quarter-finals, only to come up short each time.

But after completing a clean sweep of their Six Nations opponents in dominant fashion on Saturday, coach Joe Schmidt can be forgiven for thinking things will be different in Japan in 18 months time. Ireland are now comfortably ranked second in the world.

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