Ireland last won a Grand Slam back in 2009. In odd years, like 2009, Ireland play England and France (the 2 traditional heavyweights) at home – and odd years were therefore deemed Ireland’s best chance of winning a 6 Nations Championship and particularly a grand slam.
But in more recent times, France’s form has fallen off a cliff and Ireland has taken to beating them both home and away. In contrast to France, Ireland has moved up the pecking order and won the 6 Nations Championship in consecutive years (on points) in 2014 and 2015.
England, of course, have continued to retain their heavyweight tag and now look to winning their 3rd consecutive title – a first in the 6 Nations.
Last year, 2017, an odd year and Ireland were many people’s favourites to defeat England in Dublin on the final day of the season and claim the Championship. We were expected to beat France at home and give Italy a good thrashing in Rome – which we duly did.
We were also expected to out-muscle Wales and Scotland on their respective home patches – except it didn’t quite work out like that. With yours truly in attendance (the only 2 games I managed to go to), Ireland was deservedly beaten by both and I watched in dismay as my investments with Paddy Power (for Ireland to win the 6 Nations Championship) heading for a zero return.
And so to this year. Ireland, (as 2nd favourites for the title), with victories against France and Italy in the bag and 2 home games to come before heading to Twickers – where they are once again expected to challenge England for the Championship on the final day of the 6 Nations.
What could possibly go wrong….
Well, although Ireland are unbeaten at home in the 6 Nations since 2013 there is just the little matter of a rejuvenated Wales on Saturday followed by an improved Scotland the following week – both very keen (and able) to once again spoil the (Irish) party.
Wales, in particular, look very dangerous. Yes, they have injuries (e.g. Warburton and Jonathan Davies) but a returning Liam Williams, George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Bigger coupled with Wales’s adoption of the Scarlets game plan of attacking from anywhere, will guarantee the Irish team will be rightly very wary of their opponents.
My good friend, Patrick Power, has Wales at odds of 3/1 (they were 4/1) for the game, which using the parlance of the turf accountants, represents very good ‘value’ – and once again the annoying old chestnut of Ireland not being comfortable as favourites may get a justifiable airing.
Ireland will probably revert to the team that beat France with (Ulster-born) Chris Farrell (now with Munster) replacing the outstanding Robbie Henshaw who is out of the rest of 6 Nations (and possibly the season) with a shoulder injury and Porter replacing the also outstanding Tadhg Furlong who is out with an injured hamstring.
Of course, Ireland can lose to either Scotland or Wales before their match with England and have a reduced chance of winning the 6 Nations…but realistically for me to have a decent possibility of financial reciprocation from Patrick Power – we will need to remain unbeaten going in to the faceoff with England on St Patrick’s Day.
And if we can do that, then in 2018, an even year, then surely Ireland go on and upset the history books (and the chariot) by winning the grand slam on England,’s home patch?
Sammy Mc Nally is a Prod fictional character bestowed on us by James Young who accidentally kills his pal, who not suprisingly, given that it is Belfast, is also a Prod. The friend is sent to the after life place (Heaven/Hell) and finds it is an exact replica of Belfast – with one important difference – it is run entirely by Fenians and with the pope himself in residence in Stormo and it seems no sign of the Belgian quarefellah D’Hondt anywhere. To be continued…