CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: The title's gone for Wales, now it's all about Slam-busting
9:10am Thursday 7th March 2013 in Sport
BETWEEN 1883 and 2000, when it became the Six Nations courtesy of Italy joining the party, there were 29 Grand Slams in 99 championships. Since the arrival of the Azzurri there have been eight in 13.
Clean sweeps have become the norm. Rather than being a rare feat only achieved once in every three or so seasons, it’s more likely than unlikely.
After recent Welsh, Irish and French successes, if England secure their 13th clean sweep this year then Grand Slams will achieve a frequency only matched by the period between 1976 and 1981 when there were five in six seasons.
Which is why there’s no harm in embracing the desire to scupper another’s clean sweep.
Talk is flowing about Wales pushing for the Six Nations title with a pair of wins against Scotland and England. Forget it.
The points difference makes that highly unlikely; it will take a miracle to prevent Stuart Lancaster’s side from lifting the trophy aloft in Cardiff on March 16.
The big question is whether captain Chris Robshaw will do the honours with a smile on his face or looking like he’s just won a set of darts, a tankard and a miniature Bullseye mascot instead of a speedboat.
There are plenty who are glad England are in a position that makes the latter possible; the chance to be ‘Slam busters’ then watch them squirm is almost as good as Wales securing a clean sweep.
But when it comes to Rob Howley’s squad, there is no shame in wanting to protect something special that you have achieved.
This time last year Wales grafted incredibly hard for a perfect five, digging deep for victory in Dublin and London before dealing with France in a bruising encounter. Now they’ll relish the chance to preserve the sanctity of the Grand Slam, making their own achievements all the more special.
So forget about ‘taking each Test as it comes’ and dealing with Scotland/Italy first. It’s all about a week on Saturday.