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Six Nations: Ireland close in on Grand Slam after beating Scotland

Ireland are one game away from winning their third Grand Slam in the Six Nations era following a comfortable 22-7 victory against Scotland.

A first Grand Slam title since 2018 is on the cards for Andy Farrell's men who have impressed a great deal in the tournament this year so far. 

It was a tight and tense first half with Ireland edging it 8-7 following Mack Hansen's try which cancelled out the effort from Huw Jones. 

The second half was a much more serene affair as Ireland went and scored another two tries thanks to James Lowes and Jack Conan, both of which were converted. 

It means they are one game away from completing the Grand Slam as well as the home nations Triple Crown as they take on England next Saturday at the Aviva Stadium. 

They are 1/25 to win the tournament outright with France next best at 12/1. 

Ireland comfortable in pursuit of Six Nations title

This Six Nations has been a perfect ride for the Ireland team and they are poised to repeat their 2018 feat of five wins in a row to storm to the title. 

After a great first half, Sunday's match at Murrayfield became more attritional with plenty of injuries to be nursed ahead of next week's showdown, which could add further gloss to the St Patrick's Day celebrations earlier in the week. 

Selection issues at hooker may prove problematic for Farrell with Dan Sheehan and his replacement, Ronan Kelleher, both forced off with knocks. 

Healy switched

As a result, substitute Cian Healy was shuffled across to the number two position. 

The strength of character in the world number one side meant that the absence of the two hookers was barely noticeable and they cantered to victory in the second half. 

Centre Garry Ringrose also took a nasty knock to the head in the second half following an errant tackle and there was a delay before he was stretchered off. 

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The stricken Leinster man was able to lift his thumbs up to the doctors to the relief of everyone concerned. 

The hosts lost their way in the second half as Ireland managed to brush aside arguably the best version of Scotland in the era of the Six Nations, in what was also full-back Stuart Hogg's 100th cap for his country. 

Ireland are 1/9 to complete both the Grand Slam and Triple Crown while their current record suggests they could be big players at the World Cup. 

Ireland are 9/2 to win the World Cup, England are 9/1 to win outright in France, with hosts currently rated as the favourites at 11/4. 

Sexton matches O'Gara's records

One player who has been vital to Ireland's success recently is fly-half Johnny Sexton, who continues to defy his age to be Ireland’s talisman at 37. 

He scored seven more points to equal compatriot Ronan O'Gara's record of points collected during Six Nations tournaments - now standing at 557. 

It is a record that appears almost certain to be broken next week at the Aviva Stadium with Sexton the leader of the Irish pack - he has been an inspirational captain for his country since taking over from Rory Best in 2019. 

Given England's struggles during the Six Nations, Sexton is likely to find himself in the points and could be well on his way to being regarded as the player of the tournament. 

Out-of-sorts England

England might be right to fear Ireland given the strength of the opponents and the weakness of the current setup under Steve Borthwick - the former Leicester Tigers coach has certainly had a very rough ride since being named as the successor to Eddie Jones recently. 

They were walloped 53-10 by France at Twickenham on Saturday evening, which was their biggest home loss in history and a clear sign of how far away they are from potentially challenging again. 

Issues for Borthwick

Borthwick has been presented with a few issues - firstly, indecision in terms of who to pick at fly-half with Owen Farrell, Marcus Smith, and George Ford all vying for the role. 

The forward pack has also proven to be quite weak with France’s playmakers exploiting big holes on Saturday. 

All of this means that Ireland are - unless something dramatic happens - very well-placed to win the Grand Slam title and cement their place as the best team in the Northern Hemisphere.

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