Hat-trick hero CJ Stander insists Ireland are still not back in the Six Nations title race despite thrashing of Italy in Rome.
Flanker Stander and wing Craig Gilroy both claimed trebles as Ireland racked up a record Six Nations win over the Azzurri, a nine-try 63-10 demolition at the Stadio Olimpico.
Stander remained adamant Ireland must not get ahead of themselves however, anticipating a bruising clash with France in Dublin on February 25.
“We were disappointed last week so we knew it would be tough right from the off in Italy,” Stander said.
“Not winning in Scotland has made it tough for us when it comes to the title, and what chances we have. Everyone knows that, so beating Italy is great.
“I wouldn’t say we’re back in the mix for the title yet though, I’d just say we’re one step closer.
“France are an extremely tough side, they’ve got some unbelievable players in their team, so we’ve got two weeks to prepare for that match to make sure we’re at our best.
“They are getting better all the time, they are extremely physical and confrontational and we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Stander became the first forward in Six Nations history to claim a hat-trick as Ireland ran Conor O’Shea’s Italy ragged in Rome.
The 26-year-old was genuinely surprised and humbled to be told the news, and immediately laid the credit for his treble at the feet of his teammates.
When told of his tournament first, Stander replied: “Really? Wow, there you go. I didn’t know that at all, but that’s all testament to the hard work of the team.
“Sometimes you’re on the end of things, but the important thing is winning, it doesn’t matter who’s scoring.
“No one scores unless everyone is doing their jobs anyway, so it’s just about working hard, doing your job and taking it from there.
“The boys made it easy for me, I was just on the end of the hard work from everyone. Everyone did a good job and that paid off.”