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Joe Schmidt's long-term planning comes together for Ireland in Six Nations

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ESPN Fantasy Rugby: Team of the Tournament (1:31)

After Ireland completed the Grand Slam with victory over England to conclude the Six Nations, find out who the top scoring players were throughout the tournament. (1:31)

That was an exciting Six Nations to watch. It was great to see good rugby, well coached with players putting everything into practice on the pitch.

Most people would probably have been a bit surprised with how it played out in terms of the overall standings, but no one can be shocked by Ireland's ability to win big games in the way they did because it has been happening for a while.

I travelled to Dublin with England in the 2015 Six Nations, Ireland won that match 19-9 and I remember seeing first-hand how well they executed their game plan, their performance was near-complete.

That team has been supplemented with the young players who emerged this year and have added a bit of spark and x-factor to Joe Schmidt's structured side. They needed that to kick on, and it has been very impressive to watch them evolve over the last six weeks.

Schmidt is very intelligent in how he prepares for games and trains his team, and that is embodied on the pitch by Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray's half-back partnership. The fly-half tends to run the attack, the shape of the team and generally what happens on the field.

It is easy to see the influence Sexton has on Ireland and Leinster, how his and Schmidt's combined brain power has shaped the way the Grand Slam winners train and play.

As someone watching from the outside, what has set them apart this year is having that bit of x-factor around the squad. Jacob Stockdale is an unbelievable player -- he has every facet in his game, deft touches yet physically strong.

Then you have the centres, Garry Ringrose, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki. They are all quality players and highlight the strength in depth Ireland possess. There are now people pushing for places in the 23 and beyond, and that puts them in a good place.

The perfect situation that all teams are trying to create is to have two quality players in each position, with some more pushing through. Over the years it is something that New Zealand have done so well.

Steve Hansen, and Graham Henry before him, has had his squad but so often he will bring in a new cap, and it is not as if he comes in and then goes. That player stays and might play 30, 40 or 50 Tests.

That identification of talent is exceptional and that is what Ireland have done. That is how their selectors are getting the best out of the nation.

Ireland's Grand Slam was made possible by Sexton's drop goal in the opening weekend win in Paris. It was an unbelievable 41 phases that took them from their own 22 to 45 metres from the French line, the 40-metre kick was the icing on the cake.

"As a team you don't necessarily prepare for drop goals, if it is comes down to one then you will feel something has gone wrong for the other 79 minutes." Danny Cipriani

The fact that the kick was far from easy made it all even more exceptional. It is well known how hard Sexton trains and how much work he does on his kicking, and that paid off in the Stade de France.

What you do in training is designed to relieve all the pressure in a moment like that, to make yourself feel comfortable in that environment because you have done it hundreds of times before. So, when you need to execute that skill you are on the money.

When it comes to kicking, Sexton definitely does that, Owen Farrell does too. The only time you might feel the pressure is if you don't feel you've had the perfect week of preparation, but it all depends on the individual and the coaches and mentors around them.

The drop goal is a bit of a dying art, there were only two successful attempts during the Six Nations. As a team you don't necessarily prepare for them, if it comes down to a drop at the end of a game then you will feel something has gone wrong for the other 79 minutes.

Attacks are so good these days that when you are in the red zone you capitalise by either scoring a try or making the opposition concede a penalty. You rarely resort to a drop goal.

If you watch rugby from 10-15 years ago there was unbelievable skill but it came in a lot more. Now teams are so well organised in attack and defence that the best way to prevent the other side from scoring a try is to give away a penalty because they are under so much pressure, so the drop goal has become less of a factor.

Overall, I thought this championship showed how strong Northern Hemisphere rugby is. You can't put too much emphasis on winning or losing, whatever the end result you have to identify where you can improve and work on that.

Every single rugby player and coach I have come across has that mentality. There is the initial frustration, and emotion of anger but then straight away you look at how to get better, how to improve in a certain area -- whether it is a great win or heavy defeat you keep improving.

That is definitely my mindset since I have been working on kaizen, the Japanese theory of continuous improvement. That is how I view the whole scenario, and it will be great to see how the six nations prepare for their summer tours.

Eighteen months out from the Rugby World Cup, each team will have questions to answer as they work out how they can improve for Japan. It is going to be an exciting summer.