Lewis Moody, the ex-England rugby union captain, previewing this weekend’s finale to the Six Nations thinks that, if Wales win against France and thereby claim their third Grand Slam in eight years, ‘by any token it would be an incredible feat’. Let’s examine that claim.
The Six Nations comprises, of course, six teams, and a Grand Slam entails beating the other five. One, Italy, are relatively new to the competition, and Scotland have been going through a lean phase – they both compete hard, but England, France, Wales and Ireland would hope and expect to beat them most of the time. So, to win the lot, you have to overcome three other opponents. Tough, but easy to imagine, and thus eminently credible.
Also, Grand Slams aren’t that rare – in fact, seven of the past twelve winners of the Six Nations have claimed the trophy in that way. And it’s not even Wales’ best-ever run: between 1971 and 1979 they finished top five times (albeit of the Five Nations, in the pre-Italy days), with three Grand Slams to boot.
So, if they do win – and I hope they do because they’ve played the most enterprising rugby this year – we should acknowledge it as a very fine or even exceptional achievement, and protect words such as ‘incredible’ for occasions which really do beggar belief.