Ireland captain Johnny Sexton brushed aside talk of destiny on Thursday as the world’s top-ranked team prepare to take another step towards a possible Grand Slam in their Six Nations clash against Scotland.
Andy Farrell’s men will travel to Edinburgh with their hopes for a clean sweep still intact thanks to bonus-point wins over Wales, France and Italy.
Fly-half Sexton, who sat out last month’s win in Italy with a groin issue, said Ireland were “privileged” to be vying for a first Grand Slam since 2018.
“Every team comes into this competition wanting to win a Grand Slam, wanting to win a championship and that’s why it’s so important to get off to a good start because it keeps everything alive,” he said.
“I spoke before the Wales game — if we lost it’s Triple Crown gone, Grand Slam gone, championship, you’re under pressure straight away. Every team goes in with those aspirations.
“We still have them in our grasp so we obviously acknowledge and talk about it and make sure that we deal with the pressure that comes with that but it’s a privileged position to be going for it.”
Sexton, 37, said he felt he was preparing to face arguably the best Scotland team of the Six Nations era after declaring himself fit for Sunday’s match at Murrayfield.
Ireland have dominated matches against the Scots in recent years, winning 11 of the past 12 meetings.
But Gregor Townsend’s side have impressed this year, beating England and Wales before defeat in France, and are bidding for a first Triple Crown since the 1990 Five Nations to keep themselves in title contention.
The Triple Crown is the reward for beating all three of the other “home” nations in any one tournament, comprising England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
“Definitely the best Scottish team we’ve played against,” said Sexton. “Probably since the Six Nations started, it’s the best Scottish team.
“It will be a really, really tough game and it will probably be our toughest of the championship so far.”
Ireland overcame the absence of a number of key players at the Stadio Olimpico, including their influential skipper, to remain as the competition’s pacesetters.
Sexton could also achieve a personal milestone on Sunday as he is closing in on becoming the Six Nations’ all-time leading points scorer.
But the Leinster man, who is just seven championship points short of former international team-mate Ronan O’Gara’s record total of 557, said collective glory tops individual achievement.
“I’d rather not score another point and win a championship, win a Grand Slam than get the points record,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me too much. If it comes, fantastic, but it’s not something I lose sleep over.”