Can Ireland build on last year’s Grand Slam with another Six Nations success?

Ireland displayed their talent, power and mentality last year to achieve the Grand Slam, but can they go on and recreate that feat in this year’s Six Nations?

It is a tough ask just to win European rugby’s biggest tournament, let alone go unbeaten, so to then repeat it the year after is almost impossible.

In fact, it hasn’t been done since the expansion of the competition in 2000, which saw the Five Nations extend to Six after Italy joined.

Defending the title with another flawless run has been done once by Wales and France, and three times by England.

Ireland have never achieved it.

The Irish have only ever defended a Grand Slam once, and that was 75 years ago when they also won back-to-back Triple Crowns.

Ireland rugby fans had to wait a long time to get the taste of winning a Grand Slam again, and it came doused in drama, with Ronan O’Gara’s drop-goal, in the dying moments, securing the victory, the Triple Crown, the Six Nations and the Grand Slam in 2009.

They finished second the following campaign, and eight years later they would get their third Grand Slam, to move them level with Scotland.

Then last year they moved ahead of the Scots beating Wales, Scotland and Italy on the road, whilst handing England and France sour memories to head home with.

They were undoubtedly the best side, and it looked as if they would repeat that feat at the World Cup last year, with a resounding victory against South Africa seeming like a benchmark of what was to come.

But although they beat the eventual champions, the Irish couldn’t overcome their quarter-final hoodoo, losing to New Zealand, which also called an end to Jonny Sexton’s career in green.

Replacing Ireland’s highest-ever points scorer, and captain, is no mean feat, and that is just one of the challenges head coach, Andy Farrell has to deal with if they are to retain the title.

If they are to make it back-to-back success, they will have to get results at Twickenham and the Stade Vélodrome, whilst also battling Scotland on the final day at the Aviva Stadium.

The English coach, who signed a long-term deal in December, hasn’t been reactionary after the World Cup, and bar retirement and injuries, he has opted for continuity with his squad selection.

Who would take the captaincy was one of the glaring questions before the announcement, and when the squad list showed Peter O’Mahony as the new skipper, it was understandable.

The back-row has made the third-most appearances in the squad, behind Cian Healy (125) and Conor Murray (112) but along with his experience, his ability alone will be vital for Farrell’s squad.

Ireland will need the Munster stalwart to be at his best in their opening game against France, and if they manage to spoil the Les Blues parade then the hope of a first back-to-back Grand Slam will only grow.

Featured image: The View from Block 312 in the Aviva Stadium (Lansdowne Road) – wynnert

Related Articles