26 February 2023

Mack Hansen insists Ireland are not thinking too far ahead in Grand Slam chase

26 February 2023

Mack Hansen insists in-house Grand Slam talk remains relatively muted after his two tries helped Ireland stutter past Italy to remain in pole position for Guinness Six Nations glory.

The world’s top-ranked nation were far from convincing on Saturday afternoon in Rome but registered a third consecutive bonus-point win thanks to a tense 34-20 victory.

Italy trailed by just four points midway through the second half and continued to pose a significant threat to Ireland’s quest to become champions until man-of-the-match Hansen crossed for a second time late on.

Andy Farrell’s men have a fortnight to prepare for a trip to Scotland on March 12 before a championship finale at home to England six days later.

While Connacht wing Hansen admits there is some in-camp title discussion, he says players are not getting ahead of themselves.

“We do talk about it,” the 24-year-old said of a potential Grand Slam. “It’s hard to think about it too much because we do have to take it week by week.

“We can’t be thinking about England now, we can’t be thinking that we’ve already beaten Scotland, a really good Scotland team.

“We are going to have to go over Scotland and then go from there.

“Of course there’s a chance to win a Grand Slam from there. It probably will be in the back of a few people’s minds here and there but it’s still a thing you just have to take week by week.”

Ireland were without a host of star names in the Italian capital, including injured captain Johnny Sexton, and were made to sweat for success.

First-half tries from stand-in skipper James Ryan, Hugo Keenan, Bundee Aki and Hansen ensured a bonus-point was quickly in the bag.

But scores from Italian pair Stephen Varney and Pierre Bruno, plus 10 points from Paolo Garbisi, kept the stubborn Azzurri in contention.

Despite some obvious defensive struggles, Hansen felt Ireland were in charge of proceedings and believes the testing moments will prove beneficial moving forward.

“It’s good to get ourselves in uncomfortable positions because it’s going to be happening for the rest of this tournament, especially up against Scotland and England,” said the Australia-born player.

“Definitely a lot of positives to take out of it, one being it was a tough one and we had to work our way out of sticky situations.

“I still felt like we were in control. Even though it got close, we were still playing some good footie.”

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