Six Nations: England's Grand Slam slip ups

England can complete clean sweep with victory over Wales this weekend

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The Independent Online

Wales and England will walk out into the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium on Saturday evening with the RBS 6 Nations title on the line and the visitors chasing a first Grand Slam in a decade.

But it will not be the first time these two proud rugby nations will have met with a Grand Slam up for grabs.

In fact, the last time the Red Rose faced the Welsh Dragon in search of a clean sweep it ended in one of English rugby's most painful defeats.

Click HERE or click 'VIEW GALLERY' to see England's near misses in pursuit of the Grand Slam

England had ruthlessly dominated the 1999 Five Nations, the last before Italy were admitted to the tournament the following season.

Victories over Scotland, Ireland and France teed up their final meeting with Wales, held at Wembley with the Millennium Stadium under construction.

Wales had lost to Scotland and Ireland during Graham Henry's first season in charge and, despite a thrilling win over France in Paris, few expected them to derail England's Grand Slam chariot.

Despite patriotic pre-match performances in warm spring sunshine from Max Boyce and Tom Jones, the first half offered little indication of an upset as England confidently dealt with their opponents.

First-half tries from Dan Luger, Steve Hanley and Richard Hill put England in control, and only the immaculate goal-kicking of fly-half Neil Jenkins kept Wales' deficit to 25-18 at the break.

Members of the Wales management have since claimed England coach Clive Woodward, still over four years away from his knighthood, was so confident of victory at the interval he demanded white ribbons be placed on the championship trophy.

Full-back Shane Howarth crossed in quick time after the break to level the scores, but two Jonny Wilkinson penalties gave England a six-point advantage with time running out.

Then, out of nothing, Wales struck their unexpected knockout blow.

Scott Quinnell's juggling act as he attempted to gather a pass in midfield saw the England defence momentarily hesitate, and Scott Gibbs capitalised.

The bull-dozing centre showed uncharacteristic nimble footwork after breaking through to evade the final desperate England tacklers and dot down.

The conversion was still needed, but Jenkins nervelessly added the extras to spark Welsh delirium, English agony and leave Scotland as the winners of the tournament.

One can only hope Saturday's titanic encounter provides such a thrilling climax to this year's championship.

Click HERE or click 'VIEW GALLERY' to see the times England fell at the final hurdle