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The foot-and-mouth epidemic left them no option but to park their chariot in a lay-by for six months waiting for the green light to cross the Irish Sea.
By the time the crisis allowed the 2001 RBS 6 Nations Championship to be completed on the third weekend in October, Ireland under Keith Wood succeeded where the rest had failed.
The skipper blasted over from a line-out, his try sandwiched between a barrage of penalties from David Humphreys and Ronan O’Gara, enough to secure a surprising six-point win.
Woodward returned to the same venue some eighteen months later, this time with a familiar figure in command, one who had been conspicuous by his enforced absence through injury two seasons earlier – Martin Johnson.
Ireland, too, had disposed of the four other countries to make it a double header for the Slam only to find England’s World Cup-winning team at the zenith of their power, just a few months before their crowning glory in Sydney.
They have not won the Six Nations during the eight years since and now they are about to find out whether they have what it takes to clear the most forbidding hurdle in a city where their subsequent losses since 2003 included a 30-point thumping at Croke Park.
Their match 22 contains one link with both previous Dublin deciders, Jonny Wilkinson, another who was in the thick of it in 2001, the evergreen Simon Shaw, and one from the starting XV eight years ago, Steve Thompson.
This is the 12th time since the war that England have put themselves in position for the Slam, with mixed results.
They have won six – beating Scotland at Twickenham in 1957, Scotland again at Murrayfield in 1980, France at Twickenham in 1991, Wales at Twickenham the following year, Scotland at Twickenham in 1995 and Ireland in Dublin eight years later.
They have lost five – France at Stade Colombes in 1954, Scotland at Murrayfield in 1990, Wales at Wembley in 1999, Scotland again at Murrayfield in 2000 and Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 2001.
When it comes to wrapping up a Grand Slam decider, Wales have the best record – seven wins out of nine.
Their only failures were both against France, at Stade Colombes in 1965 and at Cardiff Arms Park in 1988 when a team captained by Bleddyn Bowen lost by a point.
France have played for the Slam more often post-war than anyone else, 13 times, winning nine.
Scotland have won two of their three; Ireland two of their five – 6-3 against Wales at Ravenhill in 1948 and 17-15 at the Millennium Stadium in what was an unforgettable climax to the 2009 Tournament.
Only seven of those who started in Cardiff that night will be lining up for the kick-off to this year’s finale– Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip and Brian O’Driscoll, captaining his country for an incredible 75th time.
Ireland, banking on Jonathan Sexton at No. 10 ahead of Ronan O’Gara, believe they would have been playing for second place, at the very least, had they not been victims of a gross injustice in Cardiff last week over the seven-pointer which ultimately made all the difference between winning and losing.
Should they make it seven wins in eight attempts against England since the double Grand Slammer of 2003, then Wales will go into the final match of the tournament in Paris on Saturday night knowing exactly what they need to do.
It will take more, much more than a home win in Dublin for England to lose the title as well.
Wales require something bordering on the miraculous, a 42-point swing which would appear to be impossible except that the Championship has a wonderful knack of making the seemingly impossible happen time after time. Rome last Saturday was the most recent example.
Injury having denied Shane Williams what may, or may not, be his Six Nations swansong, George North takes his place for a Championship debut delayed by a shoulder operation during his last Test, against the All Blacks in November.
Adam Jones, another to undergo surgical repair after dislocating an elbow for the Ospreys in January, reappears at tighthead for his first Test of the year.
France, home again after three matches on the road, return to the Stade de France after more changes and harsh words from head coach, Marc Lievremont.
Nothing less than a decisive win will be good enough to restore credibility and appease a dissatisfied public who understandably demand something far better than they have seen since the opening match against Scotland seven weeks ago.
Super Saturday kicks off at Murrayfield where Scotland and Italy can set the tone for a day worthy of its name.
Between them, they have monopolised the wooden spoon for all eight seasons since Wales were whitewashed in 2003.
The challenge for Italy, again under the captaincy of the incomparable Sergio Parisse, is to start where they finished against France last week and achieve back-to-back wins.
They have done it once before, swamping Scotland with a flood of first-half tries on the way to a 37-17 win at Murrayfield in February 2007 which they followed with a 23-20 home win over Wales.
The Scots, encouraged at having pushed England closer than anyone else in the tournament hitherto, will expect to turn their recovery into the win which would ensure the Azzurri finishing bottom for the fourth season in a row.