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Stringer: Belief helped silence doubters
21 March 2006 22:41pm
Peter Stringer is delighted Ireland's Triple Crown heroics have silenced the critics and believes further progress will be made on the summer tour to Australia and New Zealand.
But a second-place finish, losing out to France on points difference, indicates Ireland are in the rudest health of all the home nations with the World Cup just 18 months away.
"We have done well as a squad. We have had a few big matches over the last few years but let it slip," said Munster scrum-half Stringer.
"There was a belief in the squad from day one of the Six Nations that we are a quality side capable of playing good rugby.
"We took a lot of criticism for our performance against Italy. As things have turned out, Italy are obviously a team on the up who gave other sides problems.
"It is pleasing that the squad and staff have stuck together. We have been given the license to go and play rugby, which is what everyone wants to do."
Ireland face a daunting trip to New Zealand and Australia this summer and Stringer knows his side must eradicate their traditional slow starts if they are to trouble the Tri-Nations heavyweights.
"We are flying high at the moment. We are building as a squad. Some younger guys have come in and have taken to the challenge very well," he said.
"It will be a difficult tour to New Zealand and Australia. We have gone from strength to strength in each game.
"If we can get closer to a 70 or 80-minute performance we will be able to compete with the best teams in the world. We have had slow starts and conceded early scores.
"That is something we can't afford to do at this level. If you give teams like New Zealand a sniff they will take it. We will need to work on that for the World Cup."
Paul O'Connell was Ireland's player of the tournament while Jerry Flannery was their best newcomer, but the most improved player of the whole RBS 6 Nations was undoubtedly Stringer himself.
He was transformed from a one-dimensional scrum-half to a genuine threat with his performances against France, Wales and Scotland hinting that his finest years may lie ahead.
But the 28-year-old Munster player feels Ireland's pack should take much of the credit for his sparkling form.
"I am happy enough with my Six Nations. I have always said the forwards have been playing well and given me a quality platform to work off," he said.
"Any scrum-half will tell you that if the forwards are playing well, it gives you an extra second on the ball."
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