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Countdown To Croker: One Day To Go

Countdown To Croker: One Day To Go

…O’Driscoll Gets Saucy With Tomato Quote…Chance For Movement In World Rankings…RBS 6 Nations – Top Scorers So Far…Say What?…Numbers Game…

O’DRISCOLL GETS SAUCY WITH TOMATO QUOTE: Speaking at Friday’s pre-match press conference, Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll drew much laughter from the assembled media and coach Declan Kidney when asked to give his opinion on England manager Martin Johnson.

O’Driscoll, commenting on his fellow 2001 Lions tourists, replied: “Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit…wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”

Only O’Driscoll himself will know what relevance – if any – his answer has to Johnson, but the Ireland skipper is expecting a huge test from England.

“Martin wants to win everywhere he goes. He’s always been a tremendous competitor and that will translate to his management,” he said.

“When you play England there’s an incentive to make sure you’re at your best.

“We have huge respect for all teams but that history between the two countries adds that little bit extra when we play England.

“There’s awareness of the match throughout the country and that adds to it too.

“It’s most likely to be the last time we play them at Croke Park so we’d like to keep it two from two.

“We always expect tough game against England. Taking away the fixture two years ago any time we’ve beaten England has been by less than a score.

“That speaks volumes and it always go to the death if you are to beat them.

“The hard ones are worth winning, you don’t get so much enjoyment out of winning the easy ones.”

CHANCE FOR MOVEMENT IN WORLD RANKINGS: Wales may currently be the highest northern Hemisphere nation in the IRB World Rankings, but they could lose fourth spot to Argentina or England depending on the outcome of the RBS 6 Nations this weekend.

The defending champions currently sit almost one rating point ahead of Argentina, but were Wales to lose to France in the Championship’s first ever Friday night match then they would slip beneath Argentina.

A Welsh loss at the Stade de France in tandem with Ireland recording a convincing victory over England in Dublin the following day and Warren Gatland’s side could actually slide another place to sixth with the Irish climbing one as a result.

If Ireland can repeat their commanding 43-13 victory over England the last time the sides met in Dublin two years ago, then they would close to within four hundredths of a rating point of Argentina.

England will themselves slide a place to eighth if they lose and France beat Wales, regardless of the final scorelines, with les Bleus the beneficiaries before the two sides meet at Twickenham in the next round of the Six Nations on 15 March.

By contrast, were England to win at Croke Park then Martin Johnson’s side could actually jump three places to fourth themselves, providing current occupiers Wales lose in Paris. Ireland, themselves, could slide one or two places with defeat.

RBS 6 NATIONS – TOP SCORERS SO FAR: After the first two rounds of matches in the 2009 RBS 6 Nations, Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald are joint-top of the try-scoring list while Ronan O’Gara is second to France’s Lionel Beauxis in the points scoring stakes.


2 – Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Harry Ellis (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland)

1 – Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Andy Goode (England), David Wallace (Ireland), Delon Armitage (England), Fulgence Ouedraogo (France), Gordon D’Arcy (Ireland), Imanol Harinorodoquy (France), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Mark Cueto (England), Max Evans (Scotland), Maxime Medard (France), Mirco Bergamasco (Italy), Paul Sackey (England), Riki Flutey (England), Shane Williams (Wales), Thom Evans (Scotland), Tom Shanklin (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland)


28 – Lionel Beauxis (France)

26 – Ronan O’Gara (Ireland)

21 – Stephen Jones (Wales)

19 – Andy Goode (England)

15 – Luke McLean (Italy)

13 – Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)

10 – Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Chris Paterson (Scotland), Harry Ellis (England), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland)

6 – Phil Godman (Scotland)

5 – Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), David Wallace (Ireland), Delon Armitage (England), Fulgence Ouedraogo (France), Gordon D’Arcy (Ireland), Imanol Harinordoquy (France), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Mark Cueto (England), Max Evans (Scotland), Maxime Medard (France), Mirco Bergamasco (Italy), Paul Sackey (England), Riki Flutey (England), Shane Williams (Wales), Tom Evans (Scotland), Tom Shanklin (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

2 – Rob Kearney (Ireland), Toby Flood (England)


“It was more of a national occasion in 2007 because of the enormity of what was going on outside of the squad.

“That has settled down – now it’s purely about rugby. If you’re looking for a driving force like what was there two years ago it’s probably gone.

“Instead, we’ll need to look within ourselves and pull out a big performance.”

– Ireland prop Marcus Horan speaks about the squad’s mindset heading in this weekend’s clash with England and how different the build-up is compared to the historic 2007 tie

“He’s a massive talisman for them. He is strong and reads the game well.

“He and Ronan O’Gara work brilliantly together and O’Driscoll always seems to get them out of trouble. If we keep him quiet then we have a chance. We are quietly confident.”

– Winger Paul Sackey singles out Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara as players England must keep quiet if they are to beat Ireland on Saturday

“Saturday is a two-horse race and despite the pressure on (Martin) Johnson, they are very much the underdog in many people’s minds.

“That means the pressure on Ireland is increasing. England are playing to salvage their season, Ireland to keep on track for a Grand Slam.

“Who is the more desperate side? Who has more to play for?

“I believe that Ireland have more to play for and that they have more players that can handle the pressure and that’s why they will win the game.

“I do think that the game will be a close affair – much more akin to the French game then the Italian one. I think the referee will play his part, the crowd will play their part and as ever, the weather will play its part.”

– Former Ireland winger Denis Hickie gives his view on Saturday’s showdown at Croke Park


11 – The number of mauls that Ireland have won in their two matches to date in the 2009 RBS 6 Nations. That figure is well clear of their tournament rivals, with France (4), England, (2), Italy (2), Scotland (2) and Wales (0) trailing Declan Kidney’s side in the maul department

8 – Ireland scored eight tries and converted all eight scores in their opening wins over France and Italy. Ronan O’Gara has notched seven of them and while he was in the sin-bin against Italy, full-back Rob Kearney stepped up to add the extras to Luke Fitzgerald’s first half try

4 – Interestingly, Ireland have scored half of their tries in the 2009 RBS 6 Nations between the 30th and 50th minutes. Kidney’s charges have also touched down twice between the 70th and 80th minutes – those two coming both against Italy