Chariot rolls on towards clean sweep
Published 11/02/2013 | 04:00
ONE by one they arrived, giants in navy suits with a little red rose on their lapels, trying to play down the significance of their win and doing their best not to mention the words 'grand' or 'slam'.
But it was hard for the victorious English players not to feel satisfied by their afternoon's work. They had outmuscled Ireland, forced the hosts into a series of mistakes and ended a 10-year series of Six Nations defeats in Dublin.
Ireland were left to fear sleep and the nightmares it would bring. Dropped balls, bad decisions and mountainous men in white lying in wait.
As Stuart Lancaster's side left these shores last night, they could dream happily in the comfort of a hard-earned win and bigger days to come.
"We knew we hadn't won here in 10 years and we knew why we hadn't won and that worked well for us. We focused on the stuff that worked well and got that right," said captain Chris Robshaw.
"We got it spot on. It didn't help attacking rugby, the conditions, but both sides had to play them."
Ireland made mistakes, but were forced into them, according to the openside who got through a massive amount of work in the tackle.
"We strive to force errors and turnovers. It was greasy and you have to go out and impose yourself, that's what we tried to do," he added.
Fellow flanker James Haskell admitted that their opponents had an off-day, but said that it was up to England to take advantage.
"Ireland are a quality side, but they were a bit off. They will be back," the Wasps man said.
The game almost turned, Haskell admitted, on referee Jerome Garces' decision to yellow-card him for kicking the ball as Conor Murray tried to get it away. Afterwards he spoke of the relief that came when England managed to win that 10-minute period 6-3.
"My life flashed before my eyes. I thought if we had lost the game I'd have had to run out of the stadium and home," he smiled.
As Ireland lick their wounds, England look forward to taking on the so-far insipid French, and Leicester lock Geoff Parling would not swap that position for anything.
"I'd much rather be under pressure to win than be the underdog. We'll just keep going, it's cheesy but we'll take it one game at a time," he said.
The chariot rolled out of town and headed towards a Grand Slam with a familiar sense of self-satisfaction.