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Corrigan’s Cause

Corrigan’s Cause

We speak to Leinster and Ireland prop Reggie Corrigan on his goals for the second half of the season. Click here for more.

As captain of Leinster and a vital cog in the Irish international machine, Reggie Corrigan has made an enormous contribution to Irish rugby in recent years. Indeed some would say that he is playing his best rugby ever.

When Corrigan finally shuffles off that most mortal of coils that is international rugby, there will be a generation of rugby players around the land that should salute him as ‘the last of us’.

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Both he and Victor Costello are about the only real survivor of the days when rugby was a truly amateur game. When he started out with Greystones there was no prospect of what lay ahead – a lucrative career in the game. Back then, the most it could get you was a handy job. That’s if you were lucky or in need.

He has grown with his game, and now is an acknowledged leader, captain of Leinster and one of the senior figures in an Irish pack that has achieved things beyond the compass of our boyhood dreams.

Running through the list of objectives for the year ahead reminds one of how far he has come. Another tilt at the Heineken Cup with Leinster; a big Six Nations season in which Ireland are reckoned by many to be in with a chance at winning the title and a Celtic League opportunity with Leinster well-placed to win it. Who knows, a chance to tour with the Lions may also be on the cards.

The latter is something that Corrigan plays down. “I can’t think that far ahead. I’m just looking to do the best job I can for the sides I’m playing for, and if something comes of it, then great,” said the 34-year-old.

“If it happens it would be incredible, but it’s not something that I’m working towards or gearing my game to at the moment.”

There is a definite sense about Corrigan that he is sucking the marrow from what remains of his career. “I’m enjoying it now more than I ever have. It’s a great time to be playing, with Irish teams winning matches regularly. The profile is higher than soccer now and you can’t go anywhere without being recognised, which hasn’t always been the way.”

That is not to say that he actually gets off on the attention because it’s not his style. He is an unfailingly decent, grounded individual.

Mind you, he is aware that his time is limited and that Marcus Horan is piling on the pressure. “Marcus and I get on very well and have great respect for each other. There’s never been any niggle in training or anything like that. I’m well aware that I’m getting older and that it’s only a matter of time.”

Corrigan is contracted to June 2006, but says that he’ll review the situation then. “I don’t have an exit strategy as such. I have ideas, outside of rugby, as to what I’ll do, but if Leinster wanted me to go another season, I’d look at it, depending on how I’m feeling.

“At the moment, it doesn’t feel like it would be a problem, but we’ll see how things are at that stage.” Nor does he rule out staying within the game in some capacity.

One thing that certainly remains top of his ‘to do’ list is pick up a Heineken Cup medal with Leinster. As he prepares for the crunch game with Bath this Saturday, the defeat to Perpignan in 2003 was ‘like a death in the family’ to him. He genuinely struggled to get the motivation back to carry on after that. And people think that part of Leinster’s problem is they lack passion.

“That Perpignan defeat is still hanging over us in a way. We just didn’t perform as we wanted to and we let slip a great chance to get to a European final. It’s getting harder to win every year and there is a definite feeling amongst the lads that this could be our last chance. I’ve only got a couple of seasons left and it’s not just me. The squad will probably be changing quite a bit, what with the level of competition within the squad.

“We have 30 plus players that all feel they are capable of playing European rugby, so people won’t hang around forever. I do think that this side has the advantage over the 2002 side in that there is more experience, more senior players that are willing to take on the responsibility. But these days, the Heineken Cup is practically at international level.”

As for the Six Nations, he plays down the hype that is already building around Ireland given that this year the team has the two biggest teams, England and France, at home. He accepts they hype as inevitable given the form of the team over the past couple of seasons and indeed over the autumn internationals.

“But the Six Nations is a nightmare competition to try and win. Every team will be playing for pride and history. So we’ll be taking it one game at a time as the clichi goes. There will be a lot of rubbish in the media about Ireland winning the thing given the draw we have.

“But France and England are two great sides and they are going to be the two toughest matches even though we are at home. Also, the Welsh are a coming side and possibly should have beaten the All Blacks. Having said that, if we can get results against the Italians and Scots away in our first two matches then the England game will be huge.

“The players can’t afford to get sucked into the hype and we’ll only talk about it if we find ourselves in contention with one game to play.”

There’s still a bit more marrow in that bone. And this old dog is enjoying the hard road more than ever.

*From an interview with Adrian O’Farrell in the 2005 Irish Rugby Yearbook.