The Grand Finale – Five Talking Points As Ireland Eye The Slam
When the Six Nations began, we hoped for a St. Patrick’s Day to remember – and while England have stumbled, Ireland have certainly kept their side of the bargain! Joe Schmidt’s green machine rolls into Twickenham on Saturday with the Championship in the bag, and what would be just a third Grand Slam in Irish history in their sights.
After four wins thus far – ranging from the skin-of-their-teeth escape against France to the dominant display of last Saturday’s Scottish showdown – there are plenty of reasons to feel confident, but not every sign points to Irish glory. That’s why we gather the reasons to be cheerful and the causes for concern as the nation holds its breath…
THE GOOD NEWS
A GUARANTEED WINNER
While the focus will be firmly on claiming the Grand Slam, the fact that Ireland have already secured the Six Nations Championship is not insignificant. Alleviating some of the pressure coming into the weekend, it’s also a timely boost to their already sky-high confidence; England, meanwhile, are running pretty low in that department after a second straight defeat…
A RISING STOCKDALE
We hate to say we told you so – but before the tournament we earmarked Jacob Stockdale as a man to watch for 2018. After just four games, he’s already set a new Irish record for tournament tries, and crossing the whitewash multiple times in three consecutive matches is something that hadn’t been achieved in more than a century! It would take a brave man to bet he won’t add to his tally on Saturday, too.
ALL OUT DOMINATION
The statistics speak for themselves – and from tries scored and metres made to lineouts won and defenders beaten, there’s been a distinctly green tint to tournament so far! Unlike previous years, where the secret to victory may lie in specific facets of play, there’s reason to believe the Irish are the better side all over the park; by extension, it’s not easy to identify how England will look to rain on their parade.
THE BAD NEWS
REPAYING THE FAVOUR
A final day showdown with a Grand Slam at stake is nothing new for these sides. Usually, though, it’s England eyeing up the clean sweep – and Ireland derailing their chances! In both 2011 and 2017, the Red Rose wilted in Dublin, which means this year represents a real shot at revenge. Collecting the championship trophy without the added prestige of a 100% record was a bittersweet moment for England last year – how they’d love to give Joe Schmidt’s men a taste of their own medicine!
UNHAPPY HUNTING GROUND
For all of Ireland’s success in recent years, not a lot of it has arrived at England’s HQ. Their sole Twickenham victory in the last decade arrived in 2010, and only four men who appeared in that game – Johnny Sexton, Rory Best, Keith Earls and Sean Cronin – are still part of the set-up. A Grand Slam never comes easily, but this final hurdle is trickier than most…
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