Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton can skipper his team to the fourth Five/Six Nations Grand Slam in their history but first achieved in Dublin if they beat England on Saturday
Dublin (AFP) - Ireland can seal only their fourth Five/Six Nations Grand Slam if they beat England at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
If successful it will be the first time they achieve it in Dublin – the previous three came in Belfast (1948), Cardiff (2009) and Twickenham (2018).
AFP Sport picks out three memorable Ireland victories over England in the tournament:
“At least we turned up”
John Pullin (N°2) captained an England side that received a five minute standing ovation for coming to Dublin despite the violence of The Troubles
Although Ireland beat England 18-9 in the 1973 Five Nations clash in Dublin it was the English who received the standing ovation – for coming at all.
‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland had persuaded both the Scots and the Welsh not to travel over for their 1972 matches.
Seven people lost their lives – including one in a car bomb in Dublin – in the fortnight prior to the game in January.
The Rugby Football Union left it up to the players whether they wished to travel or not – policeman Nigel Horton thought it prudent to stay away.
For the Irish players the standing ovation England received at Lansdowne Road remained etched in their memory.
“Traditionally what happens is that the referee knocks on the door,” Ireland wing Tom Grace told The Irish Times in 2003.
“Next thing we hear England running out so we move under what they called the old ‘uncovered stand’.
“We must have been standing there for five minutes. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
England captain John Pullin summed up the significance of England’s presence in one phrase that has gone down in rugby folklore.
“We might not be the greatest team in the world. But at least we turn up.”
Irish deny Jones historic Grand Slam
England won the Six Nations title but it was Ireland who denied them the Grand Slam in Dublin
England arrived at Lansdowne Road in 2017 scenting history. Eddie Jones’s side were favourites to become the first team in the Six Nations era to achieve successive Grand Slams’ and victory would also put them out on their own with a record 19th consecutive Test win – they shared the landmark with the All Blacks on 18.
Ireland flawlessly directed on the pitch by Johnny Sexton and sticking to the plan of their canny coach Joe Schmidt had other ideas and just as they had ended the All Blacks record run in November 2016 so they did the same to England.
They stifled England’s creativity and an Iain Henderson try in the first-half proved decisive as the hosts ran out 13-9 winners – England still retained the title.
Jones had turned round England’s fortunes remarkably after their disappointing 2015 Rugby World Cup first round exit under Stuart Lancaster, who had Andy Farrell as one of his assistant coaches.
This was the combative Australian’s first Test defeat as England coach but he took it on the chin.
“We are all human and that is why records finish on 18 games,” he said.
“You get a team that performs above themselves and uses the conditions superbly and we were below ourselves.
“Not many teams have a 90% record, but we have a pretty good average: Don Bradman had a zero in his final Test.”
Ireland simply the Best at Twickenham
Ireland secured the 2018 Grand Slam at Twickenham with Jacob Stockdale (L) scoring one of their tries
A year later Jones was given the chance to return the favour as the Irish captained by Ulster hooker Rory Best arrived at Twickenham needing the win to seal the Grand Slam.
However, the Irish seized the match by the scruff of the neck charging into a 21-5 lead and though England came back at them they still won with something to spare, 24-15.
The visitors inflicted Jones’s first home defeat since he took over at the helm after the 2015 World Cup and became the first side to seal the Grand Slam at Twickenham since France in 1981.
The celebrations warmed the Irish supporters at least on a freezing day with Best leading them.
“Every kid grows up dreaming of playing for Ireland and when you do that the next thing you want to do is win something for Ireland,” said Best.
“To win something as captain in that special green jersey, it’s something that dreams are made of.
“It’s up there as the biggest highlight of my career.”