Shane Horgan certainly likes playing against the Barbarians. In 2000, he memorably kept Jonah Lomu in check at Lansdowne Road and, on Tuesday night at Kingsholm, he scored two tries as he captained Ireland to a convincing 39-14 win over the Baa Baas.
Horgan stood in as Ireland’s captain in Gloucester as Brian O’Driscoll was forced to pull out of the team due to a bereavement. Speaking afterwards, the Boyne clubman expressed his delight with the performance and he had particular praise for the younger members of the squad.
“It was excellent tonight. There were a lot of young lads out there tonight staking a claim for the jersey going on tour (to New Zealand and Australia) and the Churchill Cup,” he said.
“It was very exciting rugby and I was really delighted with the commitment the lads showed out there.”
Although the Baa Baas played below par, there was still much to admire about Ireland’s 80-minute effort – five tries scored, all 22 players used and some stand-out performances from the likes of Horgan, Rob Kearney, Stephen Ferris and Luke Fitzgerald.
Horgan added: “(The key to the win) was aggression and the heart the guys played with. It really means a lot to pull on and Ireland jersey. We spoke about that in the changing room and it manifested itself out on the pitch.”
While this was a non-cap game, the big winger was still bursting with pride after captaining his country at senior level for the first time.
“I enjoyed the captaincy. It was a very proud day for me, and it meant as much to me as it would have done if it had been for a full Test match,” said Horgan, who also skippered Leinster and Ireland ‘A’ this season.
“It is like anything in any rugby team, the energy and enthusiasm of the squad is generated from winning games. When players get their hands on the ball, you get confidence.”
Ireland showed plenty of hunger and eagerness to attack during the Kingsholm clash and Horgan agreed that it was important to get a win ahead of the tour.
Michael Bradley’s senior panel of players, bolstered by Munster’s Heineken Cup-winning contingent, will train on Thursday and Friday in Bagshot. The touring party will touch down in Wellington on Sunday as preparations for the All Blacks game begin in earnest.
Horgan insisted: “We wouldn’t be going down there (to New Zealand and Australia) if we didn’t think we could perform down there. We’ve got guys coming in off the high of the Heineken Cup final, we’ve got guys here now on a high after this game. We’re going down there with a lot of hope and commitment.”