Rugby

Grand Slam a 'big deal' for Oz

2013-10-30 19:37
Will Genia (Getty Images)

London - The current Australia side, who've grown up in an era of World Cups and Rugby Championships, are well-versed in the modern professional mantra of 'one game at a time'.

Nevertheless, Wallaby prop Ben Alexander insisted going for a Grand Slam -- beating England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on a single tour -- still mattered to the 2013 Wallabies, who will also play Italy on their latest visit to Europe.

"It's a big deal.

"We've won a lot since Australia's done a Grand Slam in 1984 (including the World Cups of 1991 and 1999)," said Alexander ahead of the tour opener against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

"If we brought it off it would be a huge achievement but our focus now is on England.

"It may become a focus in the last week (against Wales in Cardiff on November 30) if we remain undefeated."

Roll the clock back some three decades and talk of southern hemisphere rugby, as far as many people in the four 'Home Nations' were concerned, revolved around the two traditional powerhouses of New Zealand and South Africa, with the British and Irish Lions tending to visit Australia only as an off-shoot to a series against the All Blacks.

But things changed dramatically in 1984 -- three years before the inaugural World Cup -- when a Wallaby side which, for all their subsequent success, is still regarded by some pundits as Australia's greatest, completed a Grand Slam in fine style.

If the backs, with fly-half Mark Ella scoring a try in every Test and wing David Campese establishing himself as one of rugby's best broken-field runners, took most of the plaudits, a pack featuring flanker Simon Poidevin, locks Steve Cutler and Steve Williams and hooker Tommy Lawton to name just a few, had quality players in every row.

Come 1989, the Lions went on a stand-alone tour of Australia, with a visit every 12 years (the Lions, who in July won a three-match series against the Wallabies 2-1, only tour every four years) now as much a part of the combined side's calendar as trips to New Zealand and South Africa.

Although Alexander, born on November 13, 1984, has no personal memory of the Slam success, he is aware of its significance and especially the contribution of Ella, whose penchant for 'loop' moves sparked numerous schoolboy imitations on both sides of the Equator.

"I've seen some highlights of Mark Ella, who played very well that tour and scored a try in every Test," Alexander said.

For scrum-half Will Genia, his memories of Australia's 2009 tour, when after beating England in their first match, a draw second time out against Ireland scuppered Australia's hopes of a clean sweep prior to a shock defeat by Scotland, provide a useful antidote to Grand Slam hype.

"Coming here in 2009, there was such a big emphasis placed on it being a Grand Slam tour, I think it probably took our focus a little bit off each individual game as we came upon them," Genia, also speaking to reporters at Australia's London hotel, explained.

"We were probably thinking about the end result as opposed to the process. Personally, I'm just focused on this week."

Unsurprisingly, the events of 1984 have little resonance for the 25-year-old Genia.

"I haven't really watched anything," he said.

"I've seen some footage of Ella but I remember the George Gregans and the Tim Horans of the world."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  will genia  |  rugby
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