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It could have been any Saturday during the winter of the 2018 NatWest Six Nations championship, but March 17 turned out to be St. Patrick’s Day. And, on this special, celebratory occasion for the Irish, the national XV defeated England soundly 24-15 to secure a clean-sweep Grand Slam, after having already won the championship the week before.
The Irish victory included:
- First Grand Slam since 2009;
- Twelve wins in a row for Ireland, a new record;
- A victory away at Twickenham (Last in 2010);
- Six Nations title; and,
- England loss of Six Nations matches of three in a row (Not since 2006)
The 2018 Six Nations could have been retitled “A Reversal of Fortune,” with 2017’s champion England suffering three defeats; Scotland away in the Calcutta Cop, France away at the Stade Francais, and home to Ireland, the team last year that ended the Red Roses’ 18-game win streak.
England’s end of season slide dropped them to third in the World Rugby Rankings as Ireland have moved into second, still a five-point deficit behind the All Blacks.
Wales garnered second place in the Championship, barely beating France 14-13. Scotland defeated a plucky Italy side 29-27, the closest the Azzurri came to a victory this year.
The 2018 Six Nations event is history, but England’s collapse after its 18-game victory skein manifests legitimate cause for concern as the team prepares for the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Remember that the scar of not qualifying during the England-hosted RWC 2015 for the quarterfinals – losing two matches in the pool - still rubs the nation sore. The RWC Japan 2019 pool includes England, France, and Argentina, and the possibility that World Cup history might repeat for the Red Roses.
Ireland’s five game path to the Grand Slam:
- 15-13 France
- 56-19 Italy
- 37-27 Wales
- 28-8 Scotland
- 24-15 England
Congratulations to the Irish.