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A Grand Slam for Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 14th, 2023 at 03:39:57 PM EST

A Grand Slam in the 5 or 6 Nations rugby Championship has only been won 41 times in the 97 years it has been contested with England (13), Wales (12), France (10) leading the way and with Scotland and Ireland on 3 apiece some way behind. Ireland won it in 1948 (Ravenhill), 2009 (Cardiff) and 2018 (Twickenham) and it is an honour previously achieved only by some vintage Irish teams led by legendary players such Jackie Kyle, Brian O'Driscoll, and Rory Best.  Were Ireland to win it on Saturday it would be our first time ever to win it in Lansdowne Road.

Hard fought wins against Wales (10-34), France (32-19), Italy (20-34) and Scotland (7-22) have set us up for another tilt at the Grand Slam, 6 Nations Championship and Triple Crown all in one go. Previous Irish teams might have baulked at being such hot favourites, played conservatively, and perhaps lost. But this Irish team, superbly coached by Andy Farrell, is made of sterner stuff, overcoming all manner of adversity to earn their right to challenge for the ultimate honour.

At various stages of the Championship Ireland have been missing key players like Furlong, Bealham, Sheehan, Kelleher, Healy, Beirne, Gibson Park, Sexton, and Henshaw; and Ringrose and Henderson (along with Beirne and Bealham) have already been ruled out of Saturday's encounter. They may well be joined by Doris, Kelleher and Sheehan who may not recover from their injuries in time, in which case Coombes, Herring and the uncapped Tom Stewart will get their chance.

Last Sunday Ireland were forced to play Cian Healy (normally a prop) at hooker with Van Der Flier taking over the line-out throwing duties.  Given the highly specialised and intricate nature of the modern game, beating a good Scotland side away from home was some achievement in the circumstances. During a chaotic half-time interval, the team didn't even know whether Kelleher would be able to keep playing, and thus, what the game plan actually was.

Ireland have been the World no. 1 ranked team since their first ever series win against the All Blacks in New Zealand last summer. But whereas in 2019, when we first achieved that honour, there was considerable scepticism as to whether we could sustain that ranking, (and indeed we couldn't), this time round no one seems to begrudge it to us. "Ireland are a team that have forgotten how to lose" was the verdict of the Scottish press.

England are coming off a disastrous run which includes sacking their Head Coach, Eddie Jones, after a poor Autumn series; a loss against Scotland followed by uninspired wins against Italy and Wales; and then a disastrous 10-53 thumping by a rampant France in Twickenham. It would be a mistake to regard them as a poor team, however, and they are still ranked 6th. in the World, just behind Scotland. France were brilliant on the day and the game just ran away from England. Rugby can be a cruel sport and momentum is all. You can be only slightly the poorer side and lose by 40 points if things go against you. England are unlikely to have such an off day again.

So, a win for Ireland on Saturday is anything but a done deal. If Ireland allow the occasion to get to them and start indecisively (as they did against Scotland), we could be in for a long battle where injuries and fatigue from just a 6 day turnaround could be decisive. In Maro Itoje, England have a player who has been the bane of our rugby lives, and we have already lost two of our best locks, Beirne and Henderson. Our squad depth has improved enormously, but any team would miss a world class players like Ringrose.

All that said, I am confident Ireland would win 8 times out of 10. We just have to make sure that Saturday isn't the anomalous occasion where even more things go wrong. We will have to start strong and never take our foot off the pedal  (unlike against Wales, where we played them off the park for 30 minutes and then almost let them get back into the game). Nothing less than the extraordinary performances we saw against France and Scotland will suffice. It is a big ask of a team that have already given their all.

Whatever happens Irish rugby is on a high. Saturday could see another couple of outstanding young players like Coombes and Stewart make their mark if they are called upon. Our squad depth has never been stronger, with outstanding players like Carbery, Cooney, Marmion, Blade, Doak, McGrath, Deegan, Penny, Osborne, O'Donoghue, Hodnett, Kendellen, Hume and Lowry unable to make the cut. Our u.20's are also playing for a Grand Slam on Sunday having just thrashed Scotland 7-82!

The future is bright: Roll on the grand slams and World Cup this Autumn. We have nothing to fear except fear itself!


The 37 Man Ireland Squad to play England has been selected and contains four uncapped players* in place of the injured Tadgh Beirne, Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose, and Finlay Bealham.

1.    Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne
2.    Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher, Rob Herring, Tom Stewart*
3.    Tadhg Furlong, Tom O'Toole, Roman Salanoa*
4.    Ryan Baird, Kieran Treadwell
5.    James Ryan, Ross Molony*
6.    Peter O'Mahony, Cian Prendergast
7.    Josh van der Flier, Nick Timoney
8.    Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes
9.    Jamison Gibson-Park, Conor Murray, Craig Casey
10.    Johnny Sexton (Capt.) Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley
11.    James Lowe, Jacob Stockdale
12.    Bundee Aki, Stuart McCloskey
13.    Robbie Henshaw, Ciaran Frawley*
14.    Mack Hansen, Jordan Larmour
15.    Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O'Brien

The first named in each position is the likely starter, injuries permitting. Aki seems to be favoured over McCloskey for the 12 shirt, and there is a case for Jimmy O'Brien rather than McCloskey on the bench, as he can cover 10-15 whereas McCloskey covers only 12, with a reshuffle required for an injury at 11-15. Otherwise, the team more or less selects itself.

Just a day ago I happened to scan the archive for "grand slam" or "grand-slam" looking for a diary of mine. You used that term most often. 😀

The earliest date ...

Ireland's Grand Slam? Update: Ireland 17 Wales 15 | by Frank Schnittger on Mar 21st, 2009 |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue Mar 14th, 2023 at 08:05:45 PM EST
by Oui (Oui) on Wed Mar 15th, 2023 at 07:46:03 AM EST
Our record has somewhat improved since the 6 nations began in 2000:
*    France have won the Grand Slam 4 times, Wales 4, England 2, Ireland 2.
*    England have won the Championship 7 times, France 6, Wales 6, Ireland 4, Scotland 0, Italy 0
*    Ireland have won 6 Triple Crowns, England 5, Wales 5, Scotland 0.
*    Italy have won 17 wooden spoons, Scotland 4, Wales 1, France 1, England 0, Ireland 0.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 15th, 2023 at 07:14:35 PM EST
Last weekend, there were still four possible winners (mathematically at least) : had Scotland beaten Ireland, then Ireland, Scotland, and the winner of England-France would each have had three wins out of four. That's a testament to the high overall quality.

In the event, there are only Ireland and France left standing (again, mathematically) : but to be overtaken,  Ireland would have to lose -- to England -- without a defensive bonus, while France win with at least four tries against Wales (perfectly plausible, unless they take the day off as they did against Italy).

As expected, England continue their rough patch. I think their fundamental problem is not which coach they choose, but the chaos of the English Premier League clubs' finances. I'm not certain the players are overpaid, but someone certainly is.

Wales, similarly, but with a couple of zeros shaven o(ff the financial numbers.)

Scotland are still running on rocket fuel, despite their honorable loss to Ireland.

And I've seen no more talk about relegating Italy, who've played some spectacular and athletic rugby.
All (except possibly England, who might struggle to get out of the pool stage) are looking good for the World Cup in France.

I imagine you'll be making plans for a visit in the autumn, Frank?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Mar 16th, 2023 at 04:15:34 PM EST
The CEO of Scottish rugby is on £1,000,000 a year. Go figure.

Regrets, I won't make it over to France. The TV will have to do.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 16th, 2023 at 08:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too I'm afraid... I just realised last night that ticket sales opened last week for the "general public"... and sure enough, there are NO tickets available for ANYTHING, as far as I can see...

Matches in my region that I was interested in :

  • Wales v Australia
  • New Zealand v Italy
  • France v Italy
  • Argentina v Samoa

All sold out. Even Uruguay v Namibia !

We will be hosting friends coming from Switzerland (to watch the All Blacks) and Scotland (for Wales). People better organised than us.  

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Mar 21st, 2023 at 11:53:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

It's a best case scenario for Ireland with our first choice 8 and 2 back fit. Kelleher isn't risked on the bench, so Herring gets his chance and Treadwell back-fills for Henderson. Gibson Park's outstanding cameo back from injury means he swaps places with Murray. McCloskey loses out on the 12 shirt to Aki and misses out on the 23 shirt to O'Brien because having a specialist 12 (and 10) on the bench would leave us exposed if 11,13, 14,or 15 got injured.

Henshaw comes in for the injured Ringrose, and 23-year-old Baird makes just his third Test start and has an opportunity to really make an impression. Many see him as a six, so his performance in the tight will be watched with interest. He's a match for Itoje athletically, and quite possibly the fastest player in the Irish team. How times have changed for international locks! Gavin Coombes is again unlucky to miss out.

England have also made minimal changes after their mauling by France. Captain Owen Farrell comes in for the benched Marcus Smith and Manu Tuilagi comes in for the injured Ollie Lawrence with David Ribbans replacing the injured Ollie Chessum at lock. 20 year old (ex Ireland qualified) winger Henry Arundell is preferred to Max Malins on the wing.

This is a good England side with the Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, and Owen Farrell midfield axis having caused us plenty of problems in the past. Courtney Lawes will be missed (as will Tadgh Beirne) and I am surprised Dombrandt is retained. His lack of mobility has been cruelly exposed at international level. Opportunity knocks for Henry Arundell but no doubt Ireland will test his defence.

England: 15 Freddie Steward; 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Henry Arundell; 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Jack van Poortvliet; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler; 4 Maro Itoje, 5 David Ribbans; 6 Lewis Ludlam, 7 Jack Willis, 8 Alex Dombrandt. Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant .

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 16th, 2023 at 08:27:26 PM EST
Any team would miss two world class players like Ringrose and Beirne (and Henderson, Bealham and Kelleher aren't bad either!) But considering those injuries, this is about as good as it gets for Ireland. England are missing Courtney Lawes, Chessum , Lawrence and Cowan-Dickie and are thus in a roughly equivalent position. This is a fair test of where the two sides are coming up to the World cup, not to mention Ireland's grand slam ambitions. No excuses. Time to deliver!

With so few scrums in the game nowadays, the importance of having a big heavy lump of a man at lock has diminished. The number of mauls also seems to have diminished which favours the faster players in the loose. This will be the first time Baird has started against a big international pack. (Leinster have also tended to favour Molony over him at lock and have played him mostly at 6). At 23 years of age, he has time on his side and this is a huge opportunity for him to move up the pecking order. He would be an ideal man to have on the bench covering 4, 5, and 6 (and even 7 against a huge pack like SA!).

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 16th, 2023 at 08:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poor Marcus Smith looked a bit like a headless chicken against France last weekend, which is unfortunate because he's one of the best things about the England team, when they let him play. Was he set up for a fall?...

It's obvious that Owen Farrell had to start tomorrow against his dad's team (Andy is encouraging his grandchildren to support Ireland!.

But is this Johnny Sexton's swansong?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Mar 17th, 2023 at 04:55:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jonny hopes to play on until the World Cup, but this is expected to be his last 6N match.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 17th, 2023 at 07:39:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done 🇮🇪

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Mar 18th, 2023 at 07:21:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see mná na hÉireann are facing Wales this weekend in the Women's Six Nations.
by rifek on Wed Mar 22nd, 2023 at 04:24:37 AM EST
Yes. They have only recently been offered professional contracts and may have a way to go before they can emulate the men's team.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 22nd, 2023 at 05:49:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Everything has to start somewhere.
by rifek on Wed Mar 22nd, 2023 at 11:05:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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