Grand Slam Winners 2018
Ireland did it, they won the 2018 Six Nations and with that they also won only their third Grand Slam in history. Winning their first in 1948, 2009 and now the class of 2018 has added a third Grand Slam. Yes it is a mythical thing like the Triple Crown but the significance of this win won’t die away too quickly. Joe Schmidt has now gone beyond any other Irish rugby coach by winning a third Six Nations title.
After the defeat at the 2015 World Cup, Joe Schmidt stated that he would work on player depth in each position in the National side and he now has at least three players in every position barring out half which he will try and rectify during the Tour of Australia in June of this year.
This campaign started in Paris and it could have be all so different had a try in the 71st minute of that game from Teddy Thomas been the final score, also crucially the conversation was missed which helped Ireland in the final few moments when they worked to set up that final chance for Jonathan Sexton to send Ireland into rapturous and to seal a 15-13 win.
This Championship has seen Jacob Stockdale come into his own where he crossed for 7 tries , he like Sexton saved his best for last and that try on the stroke of half time in Saturday’s game proved so crucial as did Joey Carbery’s conversion.
This team went out with a game plan in each game and executed the game plans in each game to near perfection, they also scored tries in dead time in three game against Scotland, Wales and most crucially England.
Going back to last summer’s tour of the USA, Joe Schmidt was asked to tour with the Lions and he declined deciding instead to travel to the States and it was here where he first capped a number of key cogs in the Grand Slam winning 23, namely James Ryan , Jacob Stockdale , Andrew Porter and he also gave Keith Earls the opportunity to regain form and fitness which he has done in spades.
The seeds for this Championship were sown in the USA and last November as well so Joe Schmidt has made good on two promises, he has worked on player depth and has delivered the ultimate prize in the Northern Hemisphere rugby.
The fact that this was achieved in Twickenham can’t be forgotten, for many years Ireland went to England in the Five Nations and then after 2000 Six Nations and got battered. Back in 2004, Ireland were the first team to defeat the then World Champions after they came home from Australia. In 2006, Ireland again were the thorn in the England side. No more than the Welsh or Scots, there is nothing better particularly in rugby than an England side being beaten.
It has plenty to do with what is written in every history book in Ireland and to reverse that England aren’t one bit afraid of handing out routine thumping’s to anyone that lets them. It was terrific to see an Irish side go at England from the start and not let them off the hook once. This game was where Ireland may finally have broken down that mental barrier that they do not like the favourites tag.
Looking to the future, it looks bright and now Ireland can try and develop their squad depth even more when they visit Australia in June. It was also great to see the Irish support enjoying themselves at full time.
Seeing Billy Keane come down from the Press area to have a few moments with his godson Jonathan Sexton was a sight to behold. Every player had a few precious moments with family after the 80 minutes which was great to watch. This win will now spur on everyone to greater heights and who know what may be around the corner. For now soak up every last second of that winning feeling because in sport these moments don’t come around too often.
I salute the 23 who played on the day and also the staff who worked to help in any way to bring this whole thing together.
15 Rob Kearney
14 Keith Earls
13 Gary Ringrose
12 Bundee Aki
11 Jacob Stockdale
10 Jonathan Sexton
9 Conor Murray
8 CJ Stander
7 Dan Leavy
6 Peter O Mahony
5 James Ryan
4 Iain Henderson
3 Tadgh Furlong
2 Rory Best
1 Cian Healy
16 Sean Cronin
17 Jack Mc Grath
18 Andrew Porter
19 Devin Toner
20 Jordi Murphy
21 Kieran Marmion
22 Joey Carbery
23 Jordan Larmour
These 23 men now join men of 49 and 09 in history. Well Done to all…..
Cian Mc Gibney