If Ireland need even more motivation than the prospect of their first grand slam since 1948, then Warren Gatland may have just provided it.
“Probably, out of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most.”
Gatland’s comments are probably no more than off the field tactics to get a reaction out of the Irish camp. However it seems to have done little to spoil the Irish momentum leading into this weekend’s big game.
Kidney announced three changes to the starting line-up. The battle at scrum half continues with O’Leary starting ahead of Stringer, slightly confusing after Stringers excellent game last week but I am sure we will see him at some point. Two other welcomed changes come in the form of Flannery and Heaslip returning to the starting 15.
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Stephen) Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Rory Best, Tom Court, M O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy, Peter Stringer, Paddy Wallace, Geordan Murphy.
All eyes are on Ireland as the Six Nations rumbles into its penultimate weekend. It is with slight apprehension that Ireland take the position of favourites and grand slam hopefuls, far from a once favoured underdog status.
The Scotts will undoubtedly be looking to cause an upset to Ireland’s winning ways and one of the best chances we have of lifting the trophy in recent years. But there is an unrivalled level of commitment and enjoyment coming out of the camp in recent weeks strengthened by a string of impressive performances. From an outsiders view the squad seems to be one of the tightest units in European rugby with a new found mixture of experience, youth and depth.
Kidney it putting this depth to the ultimate test by making four changes to the Irish side who beat England. Eye brows will be raised as Flannery and Heaslip fail to make Kidney’s starting line-up. Both have impressed throughout the tournament and when it comes to Best’s line-out throwing this could prove to be a risky move. However Kidney has hedged this risk by starting Stringer and D’Arcy. Stinger replaces O’Leary who has been solid at #9 but simply has not been providing quick enough ball. D’Arcy should also add an intangible confidence that comes from experience and performance. Its an interesting move from Kidney and one which we will hopefully learn a lot from.
Ireland: Kearney; Bowe, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Fitzgerald; O’Gara, Stringer; Horan, Best, Hayes; O’Callaghan, O’Connell; Ferris, D Wallace, Leamy.
Replacements: Murphy, Wallace, O’Leary, Court, Flannery, O’Driscoll, Heaslip.
After a nail-biting end Ireland successfully kept the grand slam in sight with a close victory over England. An ill-disciplined England allowed Ireland to get on top through O’Driscoll’s try. O’Driscoll is having one of his best seasons with unmatched dedication to the team. We can only hope that O’Gara is back in form for the next two matches.
Photos via BBC sport
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If it it’s not broke, don’t fix it – Seems to be the message coming from the squad as they announced the same starting line-up that defeated Italy a week and a half ago. Paddy Wallace returns after sustaining head injuries in both the French and Italian games leaving D’Arcy on the bench.
R Kearney; T Bowe, B O’Driscoll (capt), P Wallace, L Fitzgerald; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Best, T Court, M O’Driscoll, D Leamy, P Stringer, G D’Arcy, G Murphy.
John Hayes will match Malcolm O’Kelly’s 92 caps as joint all-time most capped player.
Could also be an interesting day for #9′s as O’Leary and Stringer battle it out – O’Leary will need to offer quicker ball than he did last week with Stringer showing he’s not over the hill yet.
Ireland v England – Last 5 Six Nations Results
(2008) England 33 – 10 Ireland
(2007) Ireland 43 – 13 England
(2006) England 24 – 28 Ireland
(2005) Ireland 19 – 13 England
(2004) England 13 – 19 Ireland
After last week’s performance Kidney has kept the starting line-up identical to the team who played against France. Undoubtly we can expect Italy to put up a challenge, after their defeat against England they will be looking to cause an upset.
R Kearney; Bowe, B O’Driscoll (capt), P Wallace, Fitzgerald; O’Gara, O’Leary; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Ferris, D Wallace, Heaslip.
Replacements: R Best, Court, O’Kelly, Leamy, Stringer, D’Arcy, G Murphy.
Outstanding performance by Ireland, made for a very enjoyable game of rugby. Amazing to see French resilience overcome by Irish pride in the dying minutes of the game. Hopefully a sign of things to come.