Ireland have to produce something less conservative and more constructive if they are to emulate Jackie Kyle’s team of legend and win their first Grand Slam since 1948.
Stuart Barnes writing in The Telegrapgh says,
It was the result England craved sure enough. Not the Calcutta Cup match, a game England were never going to lose with home advantage, but Ireland’s win in Cardiff. The world’s No 1 computer-rated team is 80 minutes from heading to the southern hemisphere in the summer and beyond as the Grand Slam champions of Europe.
Make no mistake, Ronan O’ Gara’s dropped goal makes all the difference. It is the fourth time Clive Woodward’s England have faced a Grand Slam finale to the season. Thus far the record is one of dismal failure, but Ireland’s win creates a new scenario.
England are not confronting opposition with little to lose, underdogs with no fear of failure; the last three English parties have been spoiled by teams that concentrated on “stopping England.”
This time the pressure is heaped evenly on both sides; Ireland have as much to lose as England. And on the evidence of the last two internationals, they are beginning to struggle with the burden in the way we have seen England struggle so often recently.
Lansdowne Road was drenched in nervous tension when France narrowly failed to end the charmed run of Brian O’Driscoll’s captaincy, and in Cardiff the Emerald Isle supporters almost drowned in the stuff. The dream made it through but the reality of Ireland’s tightening form is dominating their performance.
A week is a long time in which to carry that dream of glory in the back of the mind and mix it with the nagging doubts that near defeat delivered in Cardiff. Mentally Ireland have most of the questions to answer. They may provide those answers, but the examination currently appears a more formidable test for them than England.
The team’s game plan is becoming more, rather than less restrictive. The likes of Geordan Murphy and Brian O’Driscoll automatically kicking ball away to maintain territorial pressure is merely going to hand it back to England.
Ireland have to produce something less conservative and more constructive if they are to emulate Jackie Kyle’s team of legend and win their first Grand Slam since 1948. A repeat of their past two efforts will see England racing past them on the performance graph as Ireland dip and Woodward’s men rise.
In The Guardian, writer Ian Malin tells us that,
England’s last trip to Dublin had been delayed by foot-and-mouth. Until this (Saturday’s) comprehensive victory over the improving Scots, England were more worried about foot-in-mouth.
But if any talk before the weekend of momentous grand-slam deciders was considered to be tempting fate, from the final peep of Alan Lewis’s whistle conversation was of little else.
Mailn goes on to say that Phil Larder, England’s assistant coach, is desperate to recover from that hangover fixture in October 2001 when a third successive grand slam disappeared in the Celtic mists.
Larder is quoted,
“The defeat in Ireland was the most disappointing of my career. When you are beaten by a better side you can accept it but to lose when you don’t perform is difficult. It wasn’t like Murrayfield the year before when the conditions were awful, it was a fine day. But we’ve learned a lot. I don’t think any team I’ve been involved with has had the mental strength of this England team. Sport is about how you handle pressure and Ireland will come under a lot of pressure and weight of expectancy.”
And also in The Guardian, England centre ,b>Will greenwood had this to say in an interview with Richard Williams>
“Kitchen sink,” he said. “Here it comes. Work cut out.”
But then his evaluation of Ireland’s challenge became more expansive.
“No, they’re better than that,” he continued. “They’re not just a kitchen sink side. They’re a footballing side. They can play some good rugby and I think we can, too, when we get it right. So the only thing I could wish for next week is a nice day. I think the spectacle deserves some decent weather.
“Part of you wants to play the straight bat and say, ‘We know it’s going to be a tough game, any side can win on the day, both sides have beaten some of the best teams in the world,’ and so on.
And part of you just wants to come out and say, ‘Well, we’re going over there because we want to win a grand slam.’ We certainly appreciate the nature of the occasion.”
Final word to Robert Kitson Either way it is a compelling prospect, with England 4-9 favourites to steer their sweet chariot safely through the Fields of Athenry. If, this time, they do put the icing on the cake, do not expect the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back and Matt Dawson to worry unduly about the consistency of the sponge.”