Asked where he ranks coaching Ireland to a Grand Slam in the Six Nations, Joe Schmidt did not compare it to previous Six Nations titles, but to where his coaching career began.

"I suppose the first one was a Ranfurly Shield in New Zealand," he said. "Growing up in New Zealand that's really special. I think Bay of Plenty had been trying to win it for over 100 years and so that was the first really special one.

"Yeah, it's hard to equate anything with this. When I was a kid I used to watch Five Nations on TV and think these places were on a whole different planet with those massive crowds. It's pretty hard when you're born in Kawakawa, 1,400 people and you're shifted to the metropolis of Woodville, 1,600 people, it's huge.

"No matter what you try to do as a coach you can't create courage. You can try to add to character or build on character, but there's got to be the character there to start with and they definitely demonstrated that today."

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Ireland have now strung together 12 consecutive victories and attention is already turning to the visit of New Zealand to the Aviva Stadium in November.

"We're sitting No 2 in the world, and we're excited to have a crack at New Zealand," Jacob Stockdale, the wing who scored a record seven tries in a single Six Nations tournament, said.

Irelands players celebrate winning the Grand Slam after the Six Nations rugby union match against England at Twickenham stadium in London. Photo / AP
Irelands players celebrate winning the Grand Slam after the Six Nations rugby union match against England at Twickenham stadium in London. Photo / AP

"Look, Joe hasn't said 'New Zealand is the target', but your ambition is to be the best team in the world and to do that you have to beat the best team in the world. At the minute that's New Zealand."

England's fortunes in this tournament two years on from celebrating their own Grand Slam display the folly of predicting a dynasty in such a cut-throat tournament. Yet the strength in depth Ireland have amassed in the past 18 months is staggering.

That Stockdale, James Ryan, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour and Dan Leavy have all been integrated into the first team without missing a single step is another testament to Schmidt's phenomenal ability as a talent spotter and promoter.

"We spoke about that at the start of the campaign as well," Sexton said. "In '09 there were four or five guys who came into that squad and freshened things up – kept guys on their toes and brought this fearlessness."

In nearly every other aspect during this year's tournament, Schmidt has been the master of all he has surveyed. At times during his five-year tenure as Ireland head coach, he has been criticised for being too strict and structured. His attention to detail would be considered ­excessive by certain nuclear physicists. Ireland players openly admit they dread his Monday morning ­review sessions.

Call that dictatorial or just decisive, it means Schmidt's squad perform with absolute clarity in their roles and conviction in their collective purpose.

Ireland's players celebrate winning the Grand Slam after the Six Nations rugby union match against England at Twickenham stadium in London. Photo / AP
Ireland's players celebrate winning the Grand Slam after the Six Nations rugby union match against England at Twickenham stadium in London. Photo / AP

And that in turn has yielded results: a first grand slam at Twickenham, a third championship title in five years to follow on from four titles in as many years as Leinster coach. There can be no ­debate that the 52-year-old New Zealander should be considered as the greatest coach in Irish history.

"He keeps you on your toes," Jonathan Sexton, the fly-half who was celebrating his first triple crown, said. "He, eh, how do I put this nicely? At times during the week you are driven demented with him, but you know he is doing it for a reason – putting pressure on you in training, at meetings to make sure on Saturday every box is ticked, to make sure all the prep is done. He is an incredible coach, his record with Irish teams speaks for itself."