But not this year.
But yes, last year’s Six Nation’s rugby tournament made it possible for one of the nations involved to achieve an even Grander Grand Slam than ever before, not just by the regular Grand Slam method of winning all its five games, but by scoring a maximum number of points in the final table, hereinafter termed “table points”, by scoring at least four tries in every victorious game.
The Wikipedia hive mind is utterly untrustworthy on matters which are politically controversial, but in matters of mere sport, I assume it not to lie very often, and here is what it says on this matter:
Played annually, the format of the Championship is simple: each team plays every other team once (making a total of 15 matches), with home ground advantage alternating from one year to the next. Prior to the 2017 tournament, two points were awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Unlike many other rugby union competitions the bonus point system has not previously been used.
On 30 November 2016, the 6 Nations Committee announced that the bonus point system will be trialled for the 2017 Championship. The system will be similar to the one used in most rugby championships (0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win, 1 for scoring four or more tries in match, and 1 for losing by 7 points or fewer), with the only difference being that a Grand Slam winner will be given 3 extra points to ensure they finish top of the table.
So, you can now win all your games and score four tries or more in each of them, and get a maximum total of 5 times 5 equals 25 table points plus 3 table points equals 28 table points for the entire tournament.
As Round Two of the tournament drew to a close with the Scotland France game, just two teams can still win a Grand Slam of the old fashioned sort, with five wins by whatever margins. But although England and Ireland both ran in a ridiculous number of tries in their games against Italy, neither managed to score four tries in their other game, against Wales and France respectively. So, both England and Ireland are at the top of the table with just 9 table points each, and can only end with a maximum of 27 table points. So no Even Grander Slam for anyone this year.
In my previous Six Nations posting, I wrote off Italy. But they are at least, for this year anyway, proving to be entertaining losers rather than just loser losers. Traditionally, Italy have defended well but offered nothing much in attack, beyond a few fluke tries of the sort you’ll always get against tiring or weaker teams. But now, they seem to be prioritising attack. This means that instead of getting beaten 20 points to 10 points (hereinafter termed “game points”), they now get beaten something more like 50-20 game points, which is a hell of a lot more amusing to watch. Instead of trying to bring other teams down to their dreary level, they are trying to raise their game to the level of their opponents. In table points parlance, Italy have switched from trying to win, or failing that lose by less than seven points, to trying to win, or failing that to lose while scoring four tries or more. Personally I find this a considerable improvement.
Take yesterday. In the Italy Ireland game, Ireland had their four tries bonus point in the bag by half time, with Italy having scored a big fat zero of game points. But in the second half, Italy kept on trying for tries, and the try count was: Ireland four (more), Italy three. So, although Italy were never going to get a table point from only losing by a bit, they were, by the end, just one slightly cleverer pass away from getting a fourth try, right at the death. Shame.
In the other game yesterday, England scored two early tries and looked odds on to get at least four, but actually managed no more game points at all. England were then very lucky, with the video referee refusing to award Wales what the commentators all said was a good try. If that Wales not-try had been given they could well have won. But then again, there was an amazing tackle by an England player when Wales looked odds on to score another try, by which I mean a different not-try, so maybe England deserved it. It was very tense. I had to be somewhere else, and ended up being late because I could neither watch it nor not watch it. I ended up watching it and not watching it to the not bitter end.
France Italy, in two weeks time, looks like it could be a lot of fun. Italy will be well up for it, and France might, if they get off to a bad start, become very edgy. Whoever loses that is a likely Wooden Spoon winner. Apparently there is no actual wooden spoon awarded to the losingest team. Maybe there should be. And then, holding it, the losingest team should have to do a Lap of Dishonour. But no. This year it will probably be Italy, again, and that wouldn’t be fair.
There now follows the dreaded Fortnight Wait, between Round 2 and Round 3, and after that there will be another Fortnight Wait, until Round 4. In such circumstances people often say: “I can’t wait.” But they can and they do, because they have to.