Wallabies may tour Britain and Ireland for Grand Slam anniversary tour

By Wayne Smith
November 29, 2008 THE Australian Rugby Union is close to organising a grand slam tour of Britain and Ireland for Australia next year to mark the 25th anniversary of the only Wallabies clean sweep in 1984.

Even though the Wallabies are on the brink of winning a fourth straight Test on this tour when they face Wales in Cardiff, hot on the heels of victories over Italy, England and France, they cannot officially match the Grand Slam achieved by Andrew Slack's 1984 Wallabies.

To do that, they would need to defeat England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - a feat New Zealand hope to achieve early Sunday morning (EDT) when they meet England at Twickenham, having already beaten the other three home unions.

Three legs of a 2009 grand slam tour are already in place, with Tests against Scotland, Wales and Ireland as part of the International Rugby Board's roster.

The fourth Test planned for next year's tour is against Italy, but the ARU is attempting either to swap that match for an England game or to add England to the tour itinerary to ensure the Wallabies could have a crack at repeating the original 1984 Grand Slam.

England have already pencilled in other opponents for their three approved Tests during the November window next year. While November 7 is still free, it falls outside the IRB-approved window which would mean England would need to persuade their clubs to release players for Test duty.

That is not without precedent. Indeed, half-back Gareth Cooper has been given a release from his English club Gloucester to play for Wales against the Wallabies early Sunday (EDT).

"We're still hopeful," ARU chairman Peter McGrath said. "England would have to sign off on the proposal, as would the other unions involved, but we are hoping that we can get an agreement that would allow us to have a second crack at a Grand Slam, 25 years after the first."