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Slam Sunday

Slam Sunday

“The hardest thing part about this week is the waiting.” Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll admitted at the press conference last Wednesday. The time for talking the talk is over.

“The hardest thing part about this week is the waiting.” Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll admitted at the press conference last Wednesday. The time for talking the talk is over. Now it’s time to walk the walk.
And for Ireland that walk will take place in their own back yard, in front of their own support and the great thing is that for once the pressure is not on the team that has the home advantage.

England come here searching for a prize that has eluded them three times in the recent past and they crave this honour beyond any other. It’s a want best described by their coach Clive Woodward when he says,
“Monday doesn’t exist in my mind. It’s all about Sunday. The World Cup doesn’t exist. This is a huge game. Nothing else matters.”

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So no pressure lads from the coach and tha’s good.

Eddie O’Sulivan on the other hand has asked his players to go out and peform to the very best of their ability, his belief being that if they can do that then “England will have to play out of their shirts to win.”

And out of their skins. And out of their minds. Because this will be Ireland ‘comin atcha’ big time. But not like Ireland sides of yore.

There’ll be passion and pride aplenty but add in the patience and precision that the management will desire. Couple that with a high level of skill, deep intensity and a Munster type refusal to accept defeat when everyone else sees it so clearly, and you start to imagine the sort of task facing the England team today.

And no matter what Clive W says to them, no matter how many videos they watch, they won’t be prepared for the mix that will be thrown at them in Lansdowne from on or off the pitch.

This occasion has resonances of the Munster/Gloucester game. The same scenario – the best team in the premiership coming over to write themselves into the history books, (the first side to win in Thomond in the Heineken Cup).

This time it’s the best team in the world coming over to claim a title they believe is rightly theirs, Grand Slam champions. And they can rightly make claim to being the best, but that doesn’t entitle them to the title.

To be the best they have to beat Ireland. A draw won’t do. Winning the championship (again) won’t do. Losing, however gloriously, certainly will not do. As Clive W said, it’s all about winning. – No pressure lads.

Ireland can go out and play with cautious gay abandon. When this championship is over they will be able to look back and clap themselves on the back. It’s been a good campaign for them no matter how this game pans out. Of course the players will be gutted if they lose but the stakes are not as high for them. No matter what, if England lose this one, the history books will record just that. It will be remembered as the season England lost another Grand Slam.

Ireland. Geordan Murphy (Leicester); Justin Bishop (London Irish), Brian O’Driscoll capt (Blackrock College/Leinster), Kevin Maggs (Bath), Denis Hickie (St Mary’s College/Leinster); David Humphreys (Dungannon/Ulster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster); Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Shane Byrne (Blackrock College/Leinster), John Hayes (Shannon/Munster); Gary Longwell (Ballymena/Ulster), Malcolm O’Kelly (St Mary’s College/Leinster); Victor Costello (St Mary’s College/Leinster)Keith Gleeson (St Mary’s College/Leinster), Anthony Foley (Shannon/Munster).
Frank Sheahan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Justin Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Alan Quinlan Shannon/MUnster), Guy Easterby (Llanelli), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster).

England: Josh Lewsey (Wasps); Jason Robinson (Sale), Ben Cohen (Northampton), Mike Tindall (Bath), Will Greenwood (Harlequins); Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle), Matt Dawson (Northampton); L awrence Dallaglio (Wasps), Neil Back (Leicester), Richard Hill (Saracens); Ben Kay (Leicester), Martin Johnson capt (Leicester); Jason Leonard (Harlequins), Steve Thompson (Northampton), Graham Rowntree (Leicester).
Dorian West (Leicester), Trevor Woodman (Gloucester), Danny Grewcock (Bath), Joe Worsley (Wasps), Kyran Bracken (Saracens), Paul Grayson (Northampton), Dan Luger (Harlequins).

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).