Ireland are just two victories away from their first Grand Slam since 2009 – with Scotland in their way this Saturday, before a trip to Twickenham to face England on St. Patrick’s Day.
However, although the hype is being driven toward a potential championship-defining clash on March 17th – Ireland could in fact wrap up title victory as early as tomorrow evening.
There are two ways in which this can be achieved – but focus should remain on the now, as both require overcoming the Scots.
Ireland could become champions if they see off the challenge of Scotland before England face the French in Paris at 16.45. Should Eddie Jones’ side falter at the Stade de France in the aftermath of an Irish victory – then it would be a third title in five years for the men in green.
However, there is also a way that Ireland could be crowned victors even if England battle their way to victory. Should Ireland defeat Scotland with a bonus point win under their belts, then England would have to match that result before beating Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day – or else Joe Schmidt’s side would hold an unassailable lead.
Ireland lead at the top of the table by five points – having picked up bonus-point victories over both Italy and Wales. England’s loss to Scotland at Murrayfield put Ireland into an advantaged position above their counterparts, and although it is currently a three-horse-race, a win over Scotland will end their hopes – while a bonus point could well be enough to see Ireland over the line.
None of this is guaranteed to unfold of course – and Ireland must remain focused on the here and now, which is seeing off Scotland tomorrow. While fans will be rooting for France in the later clash, the permutations are relatively simple for Ireland.
Win, and just keep on winning.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena