Get ready for the taste of humble pie, Larry
Published 22/02/2014 | 02:30
The English rugby players are gone all humble now. Or so we are told. Yet their second-row Courtney Lawes says he expects a brawl and captain Chris Robshaw announced: "Our guys will play what is in front of them and not the reputation.''
The match was scheduled to begin at 4.00 today, but England kicked off three days early.
Former great Lawrence Dallaglio had his spake – "if they tackle hard and get him (Jonathan Sexton) off the field things would be a lot easier."
Get Jonathan Sexton off the pitch by injuring him. Bold or what? Wait up now, wait up. There's no need to put in a call to the DPP for the arrest of Dallaglio for incitement. And remember Dallaglio's mother is from Cork. Later, he did say Sexton should be brought down fairly. It's a bit like sending a get well card to someone before they get sick.
Sexton responded diplomatically. He tried to diffuse the situation by saying it's standard practice to take out-halves out of games – fairly. He's a clever lad. The last thing he wanted was a big row with the English in the week leading up to the game. I think he let Dallaglio off very lightly.
Off the pitch Jonathan is anything but confrontational. His natural inclination would be to see the good in people and I suppose Dallaglio gave him an unintentional compliment.
Dallaglio was one of those brave men who forced our President off the red carpet in Lansdowne Road when he and his team-mates, led by Martin Johnson, bullied our first lady. I would like nothing better than to feed Larry a dish of humble pie, which is best served hot.
The English are out to chastise us today in Twickenham. This is international rugby isn't it? Not whist. So what do Ireland do? Sexton must pick his fights. An out-half should always keep something for himself. The dilemma is he and Conor Murray are big boys and ferocious tacklers. They thrive on the physical and are as good at the close-in fighting as any back-row. Rugby is a 15-man sport and one missed tackle can change a game.
Clive Woodward's words have become a bit of a cliché now but that does not take from the wisdom of the advice given to his players on the eve of battle. It went something like 'hearts on fire, heads in the fridge'. We must not get sucked in to giving away silly penalties in fits of temper. Owen Farrell, the English kicker, has mostly good days. His dad is his coach and the Irish players on the Lions tour had great time for him.
That's the worst bit about playing England. Their fans are so sporting and hospitable, they take the temper out of you. The bond is unbreakable but on the pitch, it's well... different.
The Gooch will tell you that. Every county loves him. Some counties want to hurt him. It's a bit like declaring the Mona Lisa a masterpiece and then taking a scalpel to it.
Twice he has been eye-gouged. One of those occasions was at a very big match in Croke Park, but he has only been bitten once in a very big match in Croke Park. Luckily he did not contract rabies. The injury he picked up last week was down to clumsy rather than dirty play. I suppose we're lucky The Gooch lasted as long as he did. It could have been worse. Dallaglio could have declared for Cork.
So tell us then Larry – you don't mind if we call you Larry – exactly what kind of injury have you in mind "to get Sexton off''?
Something low-grade is it, like a broken fingernail with an ambulance on call to rush Sexton to the nail bar? Or maybe, Larry, the injury could be a nice, clean-break broken leg that wouldn't take too long to heal.
Dallaglio kept on digging. He attempted to clarify his words: "Having had feedback from countless Irish rugby supporters, I realise how clumsily I made this point.
"I was not advocating England deliberately try to get Sexton off the pitch, and not in a million years would I want to see any player in an England jersey deliberately try to injure an opponent."
But Larry, we know you didn't use the word 'deliberately' in your original statement. Could it be, Larry, you'd like to see England get Sexton off the pitch, but not deliberately? Is that it?
Larry, Ireland have never been found wanting when it comes to courage.
We have often been hammered, but we never gave up. We will not give up today either and we will not be intimidated.
I think we can do better than not give up. England are much the bigger team and they play at home but we can win the Triple Crown for Ireland. Our boys go with our prayers.
Come home with the Crown, brave men of Ireland, and come home safe.