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The team have announced a clean bill of health ahead of Saturday's Grand Slam match against England at Twickenham. I expect him to be available but we'll just have to wait and see.

"And then there's this young crew - James Ryan doesn't know what it's like to lose a Six Nations".

Ireland top the table with 19 points from four games after securing a 28-8 bonus-point victory over Scotland earlier on Saturday, meaning they can not be caught by England when the two teams meet at Twickenham next weekend. They are good players and teams have ups and downs.

"We won thanks to our defence", said scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who converted his four penalties.

"We've got better in every game in this championship".

World Rugby have confirmed that Ireland have climbed to second in the latest World Rankings. It's the flip of what happened past year (against England in Dublin) and we know what England's motivation is going to be.

Perhaps the most significant achievement of the likes of O'Gara, Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell are the players now seeking to match them.

"I wouldn't get fooled by the fact they've lost a couple of games", added the Irish scrumhalf.

"I think it's a pretty big challenge", admitted the centre. If you think this is abnormal, I think that thinking is abnormal.

"There is no doubt about it we'll be sitting here next Monday morning and we'll be saying we needed we had to change those gears to go from third/fourth up into fifth for a few occasions and we'll be here as Grand Slam winners".

Ireland now sit on 87.85 ranking points, more than six points behind the All Blacks.

"Being champions going into the last round, you've got to take confidence from that, that happened for a reason, we've worked hard for that; it'll give us confidence going into this week, but we won't get carried away with ourselves". Fair play to them to come on and put a lot of energy, because that's all we asked for.

In the wake of such a performance from the third player to be deployed at outside centre for Ireland in this year's tournament, Schmidt believes his team now has stars of equal stature to the 2009 side. One of the casualties of the fall-out from France's humiliating 2015 World Cup quarter-final thrashing by New Zealand, Bastareaud had been deemed surplus to requirements.