Grand Slam – this one ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’. This is the story of how Ireland recorded their historic Grand Slam win in the words of the players and coaches who made it happen.
Today we feature an exclusive extract from the book looking at Jamie Heaslip’s spectacular try against France.
Setting The Scene
Ireland 6 – France 7
The match is thirty-two minutes and thirty-five seconds old when Jerry Flannery brings the ball behind his head at lineout twelve metres inside his own half. Ireland have four men in the line – Horan, Heaslip, Hayes and O’Connell.
They have spent many hours studying how France defend off a four-man lineout – which is narrowly in midfield. They know there will be space to exploit if they can get around the thirteen channel and they have a power play to bust the French defence. Flannery is grimacing from concentration and, at 33.37, he propels the ball into the air.
Jerry Flannery: They know I’m not going to throw it to Marcus and I’m not going to throw it to John Hayes. So it’s going to be one of the two jumpers – Paul or Jamie. It’s all down to speed.
I see Paul loading himself, moving down so that his next movement is to spring straight up. He’s like a coiled spring and the split-second I see him start to accelerate up I have to throw it hard and fast, to a certain point in the air. So I’m watching Paul – and Paul is looking at the ground, he doesn’t want to give anything away.
The second I see him move up, I just zip it. I know he’s going to be there to take it if the throw is good. When you get it right, it’s a very, very difficult lineout to defend, because it’s all about speed.
Paul O’Connell: Harinordoquy gets his hand to the top of my chest. But Jerry’s throw is an absolutely perfect, top-of-the-jump throw. Even though Harinordoquy has competed well, his hand doesn’t get near me. It’s a great feeling in that moment – we’ve won that mini tactical battle. It’s a really, really good lineout – off the top, out to Tomás.
O’Leary, as instructed by Gert Smal back in August, is standing five metres away at ninety degrees from the jumper and takes the pass low, with Flannery already upsides him and on the charge. O’Leary’s pass is swift and sweet and with the backline moving the ball comes beautifully into the hands of O’Gara. Unchallenged, he skips two men in the line and finds Wallace.
David Wallace: It was a set play. Hit me and truck it up. I carry it and give it back to the winger. Tommy was coming on a line behind me so as the cover closed in all I had to do was give it to him.
The move has been rehearsed all week and Bowe knows the next link in the chain: he fires it ten yards left across the line to the advancing Kearney.
Rob Kearney: The move was identified to get the right winger to come up and in on me. For him to try and make a read – but they defended it completely differently. I felt they were drifting quite hard so I tried to get on Jauzion’s inside shoulder and then Tommy ran a great line off me.
Tommy Bowe: I made a break then down the left and got an offload from Rob. I kept running at them and one of them was pulling me back but I kept going. They had cover straight in front of me so I turned.
Bowe spins around and sees O’Driscoll three yards behind him, gesturing with a hand for him to hit the ground and recycle. He goes low and waits for O’Driscoll to reach him. There are five blue jerseys closing around two men in green. O’Driscoll dives over the top to protect the ball,
Bowe is spreadeagled on the turf and the ball comes loose as four arriving Irishmen hit the ruck hard. O’Driscoll stretches out his right arm and pushes it back and O’Leary, the last man in, crouches low to collect and then ships it fifteen yards right, to O’Connell.
Paul O’Connell: We had busted them miles over the gain line. Normally when it goes to the touchline we truck – hit in with the forwards. But when you’ve made a twenty-yard break all bets are off.
Brian O’Driscoll: The big thing for me in the whole play was Paulie in midfield, his understanding of the need to shift it to Rog. His decision there was either going to make or break that try.
No disrespect to forwards, but they understand going forward – and there aren’t many second rows out there who would have that awareness to make that pass. A lot of forwards would have tunnel vision, just truck it up. He just understood. There is no one like him for trying to take a team on confrontationally, nobody to match him. But the right call there was to shift it – and he made it.
Ronan O’Gara: I took it from Paulie and I just saw a space – a fella hitting a hole. So I just put it there. I didn’t know it was Jamie at all.
As Heaslip slaloms through the gap the French full-back Poitrenaud is calm, his stride unhurried.
Jamie Heaslip: Breaking the line was easy, because it was a prop and a second-row that I went through. Rog just put me through the hole, but then I saw Poitrenaud ahead.
I thought, ‘I ain’t gonna outrun this chap.’ So I started to make a beeline to the left. He was legging it and I thought he’d overran it – so I stepped back inside.
Once he had to turn side-on to me and I stepped, I knew he was in trouble. The other guy [Médard] came across and I just had to bash him, basically. I was so close I just had to hold onto the ball and barrel over. My keg took me over the line. Somebody said I was like a barrel of beer being thrown into a cellar.
It was a class feeling. You get up and the first faces you see are your team mates and they are going ballistic.
Grand Slam: How Ireland achieved rugby greatness – in the players’ own words.
Grand Slam Map – Keep up to date with the Grand Slam tour as it heads to a rugby club near you.
Supporters Club Ticket Sale – Watch your Grand Slam heroes in action in the GUINNESS Series against Australia, Fiji and South Africa. Ticket on sale September 16th.