Andy Farrell's side can win a Grand Slam in the near future after their Triple Crown win, according to New Zealand rugby journalist Brent Pope.
Ireland secured the Triple Crown and did all they can to win the Six Nations when they beat Scotland 26-5 in Dublin on Saturday.
It was a performance that showed signs of what Farrell has been doing to this Irish side, namely preparing them for an attempt at the Webb Ellis trophy in 2023.
However, standing in their way of both the Six Nations this year, and their hopes of a World Cup title are the flying French that currently look to be the best team in the world.
Speaking on Off The Ball after Ireland's victory over Scotland, Pope suggested that Farrell and Johnny Sexton would not be overly pleased to have finished second this year.
"They are headed in the right direction, and I think they will be a bit disappointed looking back," Pope said. "Will Johnny Sexton be happy with the season? Yes, he'll be happy with the Triple Crown.
"They'll be delighted if they finish with the championship. But, I just think there will be a niggle there somewhere.
"England were ripe for the picking this year. They might not be ripe for the picking next time. France, not so ripe for the picking, but Ireland did put themselves back in that game and they had a real opportunity to win that match."
Ireland ran the French the closest of any team so far this year. While Pope feels that Farrell will be disappointed to not have won all of their games, he sees the potential to do just that in this group of players.
"Grand Slams don't come around that often for Irish rugby ," Pope said. "Certainly not as often as they should. Wales have had plenty more Grand Slams with lesser teams than Ireland have.
"I think there's a Grand Slam in this team. That's where the younger players need to drive that forward. That is what they want."
They need to beat New Zealand
Ireland will now go on a tour of New Zealand this summer, in the hopes of doing what no otehr Irish team has done before. That is beating the All Blacks on home soil. Pope gave Ireland a very specific goal for that tour.
"Go out to New Zealand, have a really good tour," Pope said. "Maybe win a match, who knows, maybe win two tests or whatever.
"Come back, have another great Six Nations next year and then, I suppose, their next long-term goal will be semi-final or final in a World Cup.
"That would define this generation of players. To use Star Trek terminology, they will go where no other team has gone before."
For Pope, the only thing that will make this side a truly great Irish side is to finally get the quarter-final monkey off their back.
"If it was Roy Keane talking about football, he'd say the same thing," Pope said. "He's a perfectionist, like Johnny Sexton is.
"He'd say, look, to be judged as being a great Irish side, we need to do something in the World Cup."
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