Six Nations Grand Slams don’t come easily and that was certainly the case for Ireland in 2009.
It was 61 years and counting since Jackie Kyle had inspired Ireland to their last clean sweep, when the generation of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and company stepped forward to try and write their names in the history books.
“We had a lot of good players that were coming together, we felt like we had a good coaching group and a lot of senior players that had been around the block longer than others.
If there was a time we needed to step up, 2009 was one of the years we needed to do that,” said back-row enforcer Stephen Ferris who started every game, from the opening round win over France to the Grand Slam clincher in Cardiff.
France were a formidable team at the time, one year out from what would be the last of their Six Nations titles, but Ireland managed to beat them 30-21 at Croke Park to get off to a winning start.
“(Sébastien) Chabal was playing for France at that stage, he was someone I was very cautious of because he was such an athlete and was playing at the top of his game and it was a really good marker that France game (collectively and personally),” said the Ulsterman.
“I think it was a Gordon D’Arcy try that got us over the line. We didn’t play the best rugby but that’s what the Six Nations is all about. If you don’t play particularly well, you tried to grind out a result. There was a feeling in the dressing room that we’d need to up our game if we were to achieve our ultimate goal – the Grand Slam.”
A brace of tries from Luke Fitzgerald helped Ireland beat Italy 38-9 in Rome in round two, and Ferris says he could sense Ireland were starting to head in the right direction.