LONDON: England travel to the World Cup in Australia this year installed at last as Six Nations grand slam champions after thrashing Ireland 42-6 at Lansdowne Road yesterday.
It was the first time England had beaten each of the other European contenders – France, Wales, Italy, Scotland and Ireland – since Clive Woodward took over as coach in 1997.
England lost consecutive grand slam finales against Wales, Scotland and Ireland from 1999 to 2001 and were defeated by France in 1998 and 2002.
Under Woodward, a centre in the 1980 grand slam side, England have developed into an intimidating outfit who remain unbeaten at Twickenham since losing a pool match to New Zealand at the 1999 World Cup.
But the grand slam had always eluded them and defeat at the hands of Ireland in a World Cup year was clearly unthinkable.
“It's a great era for English rugby, this set of players are doing it and I'm lucky enough to be leading it,” Woodward said.
“I can't say how good these guys are, they are the toughest guys I've ever been involved with, physically and mentally.”
Ireland, denied what would have been only their second grand slam since 1948, finished second in the table ahead of defending champions France.
France lost away matches to England and Ireland before concluding their campaign with a 33-5 win over Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Scotland, 33-25 victors over Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday, were fourth ahead of Italy with Wales finishing bottom after failing to win a match.
Yesterday Ireland, apart from an early drop goal from flyhalf David Humphreys, were unable to penetrate the disciplined and determined England defence.
England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson dropped two goals off his right boot, and Lawrence Dallaglio scored a try after flanker Richard Hill pounced on a mistake by Ireland scrumhalf Peter Stringer to give the visitors a 13-6 halftime lead.
After the interval, centres Mike Tindall and Will Greenwood (two) scored tries and there was another to replacement Dan Luger in injury time to confirm an emphatic England victory. – Reuters