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Countdown To Twickenham: Two Days To Go

Countdown To Twickenham: Two Days To Go

…Kearney Looking To Finish Championship ‘On A High’…Ireland Could Climb Back To Sixth…RFU Issue Travel Advice…Say What?…Numbers Game…

KEARNEY LOOK TO FINISH CHAMPIONSHIP ‘ON A HIGH’: “Anytime you have to go to Twickenham and try to beat England, it’s a formidable task. If you do it, it’s a fine achievement. If we come away with the win, it will leave the Six Nations finished on a good high for us leading into the summer tour.”

The words of Rob Kearney as the build-up continues to Ireland’s Six Nations clash with England on Saturday.

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The 2008 Six Nations championship might not be one to remember for Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland side when they reflect on it in years to come, but one man will have good reason to look back on it with pride.

Kearney, who turns 22 later this month, has really come of age this season as a senior international player. Having come on as a replacement for the injured Gordon D’Arcy in Ireland’s opener against Italy last month, Kearney has made three starts in recent weeks against France, Scotland and Wales.

He grabbed his first Test try in the win over Scotland and was arguably Ireland’s stand-out player against Wales last Saturday when he slotted in at full-back.

The player himself clearly enjoyed his chance to wear the number 15 jersey but he has no concerns about moving back to the left wing for this Saturday’s game against England, depending on Geordan Murphy’s fitness.

Kearney admitted: “I suppose I was (happier there). I enjoyed (playing at) full-back, it’s the position I prefer more. In saying that, I’m equally comfortable on the wing and I’ve enjoyed playing on the wing this year. It really doesn’t bother me, I’m just happy to be in the first fifteen.

“I’ve been satisfied with how I’ve been playing but again this week is another week. The old cliche of you only being as good as your last game is so true.”

The Louth man has experience of playing alongside Murphy, who he rates as “a world class player.” He did so against Argentina last summer and Scotland recently.

Focusing on the fast-approaching encounter with England, Kearney is hopeful of keeping up his good form and helping Ireland close out the Six Nations on a winning note.

“England will be in front of their own fans at Twickenham. Nobody ever likes losing at home and we felt that very much against Wales last weekend – it’s a rotten feeling when you lose in front of your own people. England certainly won’t want to do that and it will be a tough game,” he added.

“Anytime you have to go to Twickenham and try to beat England, it’s a formidable task. If you do it, it’s a fine achievement. If we come away with a win, it will leave the Six Nations finished on a good high for us leading into the summer tour.”

Kearney, who is backing Ronan O’Gara to make a success of his captaincy role, knows what a big moment it would be in his career if he were to be part of an Ireland team that triumphs at the home of English rugby. Even if there is no Triple Crown or championship title on the line.

“Losing any game in a championship is always a horrible feeling. Although on paper there’s nothing to play for, inside we all know there’s a huge amount to play for and beating England at Twickenham is as good as it gets really,” insisted the Leinster flyer.

To listen to Rob Kearney’s interview in full, please click here.

IRELAND COULD CLIMB BACK TO SIXTH: While the destiny of the Six Nations title will be decided this weekend, with Wales heavily favoured to secure it, a win for Ireland at Twickenham and a French triumph in Cardiff would see the Irish climb back up the IRB World Rankings.

Ireland, currently eighth in the rankings, could jump back up to seventh place.

However, were Ireland to record a 15 point-plus victory over fifth-ranked England, then they could climb two places to sixth, leaving potential Grand Slam winners Wales still in seventh with France the big losers down to eighth.

In that instance, the top four Northern Hemisphere nations in the rankings could be separated by less than a rating point, albeit nearly four points behind Australia in fourth and some 10 behind World Cup winners South Africa, who are top of the pile.

The margins would be smaller were the two higher-ranked nations England and France to both win and retain their positions, while an away victory for Les Bleus and an Irish success at Twickenham could see France climb to fifth at England’s expense.

For an article on the latest rankings, please click here.

RFU ISSUE TRAVEL ADVICE: Ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash between Ireland and England at Twickenham, the English Rugby Football Union have issued some travel advice for supporters wishing to attend the game.

Due to engineering works taking place on the London Underground, the District Line between West Kensington and Acton Town/Richmond will not be in operation for this event.

The Piccadilly Line is also closed between Hammersmith and Acton Town.

The RFU have some alternative routes for fans – South West trains are running their normal enhanced matchday service to and from Twickenham and surrounding stations.

The London Overground service (formerly Silverlink metro) will be running as normal from Richmond to North London between 6.45am and 11pm.

The Piccadilly Line will be running from Heathrow to Acton Town for a link to the District Line to Ealing Broadway and connections to the Central Line.

The District Line will be operating a full service to Wimbledon where there are connections for the SW train service to Twickenham.

Local buses will be running as normal, as will the RFU shuttle buses to Richmond and Hounslow town centres.

The RFU have been advised that the M1 will be closed from 8pm on Saturday, March 15 until 2pm on Sunday, March 16 for the safe demolition of an existing bridge over the M1.

The M1 will be fully closed –

Southbound at Redbourn (Junction 9) where traffic will leave the M1 along a clearly signed diversion route, via Hemel Hempstead, the A41 and M25 to rejoin the M1 at Junction 6.

Northbound at Hemel Hempstead (Junction 8) where traffic will leave the M1 at Junction 8 along a local, clearly signed diversion.

Meanwhile, for information on National Express’ dedicated Twickenham services or to book, please visit www.NationalExpress.com/Twickenham.


“Both ourselves and England will want to end fairly disappointing campaigns on a high with a good performance and a good result this weekend.

“We’ll be without Brian O’Driscoll but will focus our thoughts on how we can beat England and while finishing with two defeats is bad, to finish with three losses would be a disaster.

“Irish teams have only lost one or two games in the Six Nations over the last six or seven seasons so we don’t want to be labelled as the team that brings that good run to an end.”

– Hooker Rory Best on how disappointing a defeat to England would be at Twickenham on Saturday, as it would complete Ireland’s worst performance (three losses) in the championship since 1999

“To be honest, you’ll be surprised, I never saw Tony! I just saw a nice angle to take and went totally with it. Unfortunately, Tony was in the way.

“But it was a great experience for me, although I’d have loved to be part of a winning team. But the whole Croke Park experience was brilliant even if the result was disappointing.

“You’d always be looking for those extra few minutes on the ball, especially when they finished with the ball for last five minutes. You’re left with the feeling that you never really got a real cut off them, a real clear opportunity to have a go.”

– Young winger Luke Fitzgerald, who made his Six Nations debut off the bench against Wales last weekend, describes his missed opportunity when he ran straight into team-mate Tony Buckley and the experience of playing at Croke Park

“I think Brian and the coaches have been quite sensible. You can keep making wholesale changes but I think Brian and the coaches have done the right thing by saying: ‘give these guys the opportunity to prove themselves, because they’re not bad players’.

“The pressure’s on us this weekend to go out and to prove to ourselves and everyone that we can actually play a bit.”

– England prop and captain Phil Vickery is backing his coach Brian Ashton’s decision to make just one change to the team that lost 15-9 to Scotland last Saturday


7 – The number of players in the Ireland matchday squad who could make their first appearances in a Test match against England. Of the starters, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, Eoin Reddan and Jamie Heaslip have never faced England before at this level, while it is a similar story for replacements Bernard Jackman, Tony Buckley and Luke Fitzgerald

6 – The number of tries London Wasps winger Paul Sackey has scored for England in his last nine Test matches, including efforts in the Six Nations against Italy and France. Saturday’s game will mark his eleventh consecutive start for England but his first game against Ireland

3 – The number of countries Lesley Vainikolo could have played international rugby union for. The Gloucester winger, who made his name as a rugby league player with Canberra Raiders and Bradford Bulls, could have played union for either Tonga (the country of his birth), New Zealand (where his parents hailed from) or England (residency rule)