The goal is clear now. Stay unbeaten, but not ‘just unbeaten’. To be unbeatable. And if you were to accomplish that, then the prize is Grand indeed. For Ireland Rugby, this weekend Operation Grand Slam is on!
Immediately after last weekends triumph over Scotland, the Ireland team captain Rory Best, and his head coach Joe Schmidt sat down with the media. Pleased, bruised – on the part of Best – but delighted to have an opportunity.
“It becomes an opportunity for us, because of what we have done previously,” Rory Best told reporters; in regards to the Grand Slam. And the successful hooker knows that his men will need to rise one more time. “We’re gonna have to (for want of a cliche) save the best for last. That’s what it’s gonna take to win [the Grand Slam].”
And the planning will have begun almost immediately. While England still had to play their match, once the Irish team had defeated Scotland 28-8 in Dublin. Only a few hours later, the news filtered through that Ireland would be crowned 2018 Six Nations champions. The goal was achieved – now it was time to complete the main task. Operation Grand Slam!
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 10, 2018
Celebrate, of course they did. A good team will always celebrate successes. Do it as a group, but also do it at the time that a goal is reached. So when is that for Ireland? Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon, 620 miles away from Dublin, the operation is timed to reached it’s fruition. Defeat England, and Schmidt and Best can be very pleased. It will be the culmination of five years invested by the former-New Zealand coach. A third Six Nations title out of five from his tenure as Ireland coach. Now an Irish citizen, Schmidt would feel that his ‘Mission Impossible’ would have become possible.
“It would give me satisfaction to see that rewarded.”
England v Ireland – 2:45pm, Saturday March 17. Twickenham, London
But the task is not simple. Operation Grand Slam is on, that much is known. All members of the Irish and English sides are professionals, and will have separate goals. But one element is clear – this will be a major fixture.
#ENGvIRE could be one of the most significant dates in recent Six Nations history. As much because of the fact one team can deny the other a Grand Slam (like Ireland did in 2017). But also because the Irish side have climbed up and over England on the World Rugby rankings. It has been a mission accomplished, with the match results last weekend lowering England’s standings, and in some fans eyes, Eddie Jones’ place as the ‘redeemer’.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 10, 2018
“It is always difficult to pick up players when you have lost two matches in succession but that is the challenge for us. Ireland is a massively important game in what is a tough period for us,” was the general assessment, by the England head coach.
England under Pressure, but can still vanquish Grand Slam hopes
His side will know they are ‘in the sights’ of Ireland. And it is probably an uncomfortable place. Having equalled the world record for test wins in 2017, the English rose has wilted. While conversely, the four leafed clover of Ireland is in bloom.
As former captain Brian O’Driscoll said “it is an exciting time to be an Irish supporter.
And how will St Patricks Day influence the result? If Twickenham is a ‘sea of green’ will it play into the hands of the visitors? Quite likely, yet the home of England Rugby is accustomed to success. And if ever the time was right to become a party pooper, than snuffing out Operation Grand Slam could well be the perfect timing…..that is, if you are dressed in white that is.