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Ireland Could Achieve Historic 'Grand Slam' In 2016 - Has It Been Done Before?

Ireland Could Achieve Historic 'Grand Slam' In 2016 - Has It Been Done Before?
By Conor Neville

To think that 2016 had earlier been written off as a fallow year for Irish rugby. The Six Nations campaign yielded only victories against Italy and Scotland and the provinces all bombed out in the pool phase of the European Cup for the first time in nearly two decades.

But now Ireland have an opportunity to complete a calendar year 'Grand Slam' of wins over the old Tri-Nations aristocracy.

South Africa, New Zealand and Australia all beaten in the one year? Australia come to Dublin in the final week of November.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXIqNNCfyaM

Sadly, we wouldn't be the first Northern Hemisphere side to achieve this. In their relatively brief spasm of world dominance in the early part of this century, Clive Woodward's England steamrolled all before them.

They achieved the calendar year 'Grand Slam' over the Tri Nations two years running in 2002 and 2003 as they fine-tuned their impressive machine in the run-in to the 2003 World Cup.

England wins v NZ: 1936, 1973, 1983, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2012

England wins v South Africa: 1969, 1972, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000 (x2), 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006

England wins v Australia: 1928, 1958, 1973, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 (x2) 2005, 2007, 2010 (x2), 2013, 2014, 2016 (x3)

So, Woodward's outfit got there first.

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For many, this will come as an unwelcome reminder of how staggeringly good they were. The team attracted no love from their neighbours or their rivals in world rugby and thus have been undervalued by history.

If we were being ungracious and petty, we might seek to argue that all three Southern Hemisphere nations were experiencing dips in form around that time. This was the era when Ireland started beating Australia and RSA in Dublin routinely and John Mitchell was a unpopular and unsuccessful coach of New Zealand. But then Ireland still couldn't beat them, frittering away a glorious opportunity in 2001. The Woodward team deserve more credit than they get.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6crfOqj5NaI

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France, the NH team with the best record against NZ, have beaten all three of them inside twelve months (just) but alas, not in a single calendar year. The French answer to the Serena Slam if you will.

They beat the South Africa on 8 July 1993 in Eden Park. They downed Australia 16-13 in Bordeaux in 10 October 1993. And then they beat New Zealand twice in the summer of 1994, on 26 June and 3 July. (The second of those wins was secured with Jean-Luc Sadourny's famous 'try from the end of the world'.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTwTi-UeQ7s

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For the record, Wales have three wins against New Zealand, the most recent of which was in 1953. In none of those years did  they play the other two southern hemisphere powerhouses.

Having started out gingerly this year, Ireland stand on the brink of achieveing something that would arguably rank 2016 among the greatest in Irish rugby history.

Read more: Listen: Angry New Zealand Radio Host Rants After Defeat To Ireland

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