In West Wales children of my generation were raised on rugby folklore, tall tales that became exaggerated each time they were told, but there was almost a reverential hush when Grand Slams and Triple Crowns were mentioned.
Unlike today where every international contest has an accompanying trophy, these titles came with nothing tangible, they were the rugby equivalent of climbing Everest, the glory of the achievement was more than enough of a reward in itself.
This Saturday Wales face Ireland in Cardiff, with a triple crown and grand slam within tantalising reach, the glory has not been diminished by the fact that there is now a fair bit of silverware involved.
Ireland have been the opponents in the final match of four out of Wales eleven grand slams, stretching from their first in 1908 to the most recent in 2005.
In 1908, 1909, 1911 and 2005 Wales have faced Ireland in the final match of the tournament to win a grand slam, in Belfast, Swansea and twice in Cardiff
14 March 1908. Ireland 5. Wales 11. Belfast
13 March 1909. Wales 18. Ireland 5. St Helens, Swansea
11 March 1911. Wales 16. Ireland 0. Cardiff
19 March 2005. Wales 32. Ireland 20. Cardiff
This fixture has so much history, so many anecdotes and has been laced with some of the greatest characters of the game.
From the Irish rallying cry of “kick ahead Ireland….. any f****** head” to Willie Duggan telling the referee as he was being sent off “Sure I was knackered anyway”
Whilst we all enjoy the earthly pleasures of this wonderful game on Saturday, I have a fondant hope that there is a small pub, somewhere in heaven, where you will find tucked away, on an old wooden corner table three pints of Guinness, being sipped slowly by Merv Mossie and Willie Duggan, three rugby giants who always answered their country’s call.
Wales v Ireland has always been a very special encounter, and come the day, and come the hour, lets just hope that Wales produce the power and the glory on Saturday to win their twelfth Grand Slam.