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Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

…Croke Park Memories – Shane Horgan…Flashback: Ireland 22 France 15 (Lansdowne Road, February 17, 2001)…Say What?…Numbers Game…


Seemingly, Shane Horgan finds recalling his Croke Park past just as easy as overcoming a knee ligament injury.

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Mention the venue, his Gaelic football past, and the big winger’s eyes just light up.

“I played there when I was very young, when I was eight. My national school got to a Fingal league final there. And then I played at the All-Ireland final, in the mini sevens they have at half-time, I played that one year as well,” Horgan revealed as he looked back on his early Croke Park run-outs.

“I think the pitch may have changed a little bit since then, but, you know, it was an amazing time.

“I played Gaelic football when I was growing up, so my dream would have always been to have played at Croke Park and experience that. But as the path changed direction a little and I took the rugby route, the only time I was at Croke Park was watching Meath,” added the Leinster player, who played once for the Meath minors.

FLASHBACK: IRELAND 22 FRANCE 15 (Lansdowne Road, February 17, 2001):

Scorers: Ireland: Try: Brian O’Driscoll; Con: Ronan O’Gara; Pens: O’Gara 5
France: Tries: Fabien Pelous, Philippe Bernat-Salles; Con: Christophe Lamaison; Pen: Lamaison

Ireland’s first win over France in Dublin for 18 years. Les Bleus scored two tries in the final quarter to threaten the hosts, but replacement lock Gary Longwell secured two crucial balls in the final minutes to seal a deserved home victory.

Three Ronan O’Gara penalties nosed the Irish into a 9-3 half-time lead. They also ended the half with a one-man advantage as French out-half Christophe Lamaison received a 32nd-minute sin-binning for a high tackle on Tyrone Howe.

The game turned further in Ireland’s favour when Brian O’Driscoll touched down in the left corner, just eight minutes into the second half.

The build-up to the try saw Rob Henderson brilliantly shrug off a tackle from Olivier Magne to slice through the French defence, he found the supporting David Wallace who offloaded for O’Driscoll.

The Leinster centre showed great pace and determination to round two defenders and make for the corner flag – French full-back Xavier Garbajosa came across to confront him, but he just managed to twist and stretch over for the score, which, despite doubts about the grounding, video referee Brian Campsall confirmed.

As lock Mick Galwey wryly said afterwards: “There were 50,000 people there and they all said it was a try.”

Underlining the class which saw him run in a hat-trick in Paris the previous year, O’Driscoll had just set Ireland on their way to back-to-back wins over the French for the first time since 1973.

A stunning touchline converion and further penalties from O’Gara – on 43 and 54 minutes – gave Warren Gatland’s Irish side a 22-3 buffer. They certainly needed it as the visitors hit back with late tries from skipper Fabien Pelous and winger Philippe Bernat-Salles, but there was no denying Ireland.

French coach Bernard Laporte had high praise for Ireland’s match winners. He said in the aftermath: “If O’Driscoll had been playing for France today, we would have won. O’Driscoll and O’Gara are the best players in the world in their positions. Ireland have the best midfield in the world.”

Ireland: Girvan Dempsey; Denis Hickie, Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Henderson, Tyrone Howe; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; John Hayes, Keith Wood (capt), Peter Clohessy, Mick Galwey, Malcolm O’Kelly, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Anthony Foley.

Replacements: Frank Sheahan, Emmet Byrne, Gary Longwell, Andy Ward, Brian O’Meara, David Humphreys, Kevin Maggs, Shane Horgan.

France: Xavier Garbajosa; Philippe Bernat-Salles, Richard Dourthe, Franck Comba, David Bory; Christophe Lamaison, Philippe Carbonneau; Sylvain Marconnet, Raphael Ibanez, Pieter De Villiers, David Auradou, Fabien Pelous (capt), Christophe Moni, Olivier Magne, Christophe Juillet.

Replacements: Olivier Azam, Christian Califano, Abdel Benazzi, Serge Betsen, Christophe Laussucq, Christophe Dominici, Gerald Merceron.

Referee: Scott Young (Australia)


“We don’t want to lose five balls in the lineout as we did against Italy as that could cost us dear against Ireland. I think we can increase our performance by 10, 15%, maybe 20%. We will also have to try to spend more time out of our own half than in Italy. It’s all these little details that make up rugby at the highest level. We will be outsiders in Dublin.”

– France’s recalled number 8 Sebastien Chabal gives his views on Sunday’s crunch tie with Ireland

“I fancied myself as a hurler at one stage. I played a bit in goals in soccer. You know it’s one of those things – there’s a path there for everybody. I managed to really love playing rugby, and rugby was always going to be the one for me.”

– Croke Park may have been a regular haunt for Clare man Anthony Foley, had he not shown some much promise as a ball-playing number 8

“My Munster team-mate Ian Dowling, a Kilkenny man, has been at Croke Park on dozens of occasions, and he’s been telling me what a fantastic atmosphere you get there. Having trained there recently, I can certainly appreciate the scale and the quality of the stadium. It ranks up there with any ground I’ve ever played in.”

– Munster and Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery, who until two weeks ago had never stepped inside Croke Park, gives his thoughts on playing at GAA HQ


20: With the pitch dimensions for rugby a lot smaller than GAA, the posts for Sunday’s Ireland-France clash will be situated just in front of the regular 20-metre line at Croke Park

7: The number of tries Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll has scored in seven Test appearances against France – he scored three times in 2000, once in 2001, twice in 2003 and once in 2005

2: Two Irish players scored their first Test tries against France in last year’s Six Nations fixture in Paris – Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan and Ulster winger Andrew Trimble