‘The stuff of dreams’: Ireland set for Grand Slam showdown with England on St Patrick’s weekend

Sexton on verge of making his last Six Nations game one to cherish as fourth Slam beckons for Ireland

Ireland are within one game of completing just their fourth Grand Slam in history, when they host England at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday after Sunday’s win over Scotland in Murrayfield.

Andy Farrell’s side secured their fourth victory in four matches in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and, to give next Saturday’s game an even greater sense of occasion, Ireland will be attempting to seal a Grand Slam in Dublin for the first time.

The previous trio of Grand Slams in 1948, 2009 and 2018 were completed in Belfast, Cardiff and London respectively.

Furthermore, the game will mark Johnny Sexton’s last Six Nations game with the Ireland captain set to retire after the World Cup in France later this year.


Asked what it would mean to him to captain Ireland to a Grand Slam coronation in Dublin, Sexton said: “It would be the stuff of dreams really. What you grow up wanting to do. I don’t know why you grow up wanting to be the captain of Ireland, maybe because the players you admire the most were captains, but to do it would be dreams-come-true stuff.”

Ireland will be warm favourites to complete only their fourth Slam in 128 years of trying when hosting England on St Patrick’s weekend after Steve Borthwick’s side suffered a chastening 53-10 loss at home to France on Saturday. It was England’s heaviest defeat in history at Twickenham, eclipsing their 42-6 loss to South Africa in 2008.

“They will certainly be hurting and, I mean, it’s a perfect opportunity to come and spoil the party,” said Ireland head coach Farrell of England, with whom he previously worked as an assistant coach.

“That’s the reality. So that will be a massive motivation for them. Is that bigger motivation than what we’re gonna experience playing at home for a Grand Slam game on St Patrick’s weekend? We’ll see.”

As for the prize at stake, Farrell said: “It will mean everything because I feel that the group are ready for that. But, those words mean nothing over the next five or six days because we’ve got to go out there and perform against what’s going to be a very motivated England side.

“So, one more to go. We will need to be at our best and that’s what we expect of each other.”

The Ireland Under-20s team will also be seeking a Grand Slam, their second in succession, against their English counterparts in Musgrave Park, Cork, next Sunday evening.

These are some times for Irish rugby. Some times indeed.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times