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Brian Jackman: What a great day. Can we play England every week?

If only we could play England every week. The Irish rugby team carried on from what our cricketers started, and our horses, trainers and jockeys continued at Cheltenham, with a resounding win over the 2011 Six Nation champions in a throbbing Aviva Stadium.

Over 20,000 English supporters travelled over in the hope that they would witness their team completing a Grand Slam. We had nothing to play for except pride. But this team is built on pride and they came out with the passion, intensity and accuracy that we had struggled to bring consistently in the previous four matches.


The scoreline of 24-8 doesn't reflect how dominant we were in all areas of the game. England won the first kick off and that was about as far as they got.

The key moment of the match for me was the first scrum when Ireland called an eight-man shove and shunted the men in white backwards and won a penalty. While the Irish forwards were congratulating their front row, Johnny Sexton had other things on his mind and despite us being in our own half he sensed weakness and took a quick tap and a couple of phases later Brian O'Driscoll was touching down in the left hand corner only for the referee to rule the try out for a forward pass.

If England had expected an easy evening now they knew they were in a game. Complacency is a curse in sport and if your mindset isn't right it's nigh on impossible to recover during a match at the highest level.

Looking at England's performance it seems that they were starting to believe their own press and against the most experienced Irish squad of all time that was going to be dangerous.

Not only are Ireland more experienced, they are also packed with leaders and proven winners at Heineken Cup, Magners League and Six Nations level. They used the disappointment and hurt from the Welsh defeat to circle the wagons and get the mindset just right this week. Irish teams always are at their best when they play with a little bit of madness and mayhem.

There is a TV show I watch about a high school football team in Texas called Friday Night Lights. Their coach's final message before they go into battle is always "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" and for me the Irish team achieved this perfectly. Emotionally, we were right on the money.


From Cian Healy at loosehead prop to Keith Earls at full back they had absolutely no respect for their bodies as they piled into each tackle and ruck. Yet we only conceded six penalties which was our lowest of the campaign.

To see O'Connell and O'Callaghan, who were both outstanding, fly hacking a loose ball and taking off after Ben Foden was a throwback to the old days at Lansdowne Road and Moss Keane and Co.

The Aviva Stadium needed a performance like this to start making it a fortress for our team and we can build on this win.

While no Irish player played poorly it's important to note another milestone achieved by Brian O'Driscoll whose dart over the line gave him his 25th Six Nations try, eclipsing a record set in the 1930s by Scotland Ian's Smith. He will refuse to dwell on any individual accolades but time after time he answers his critics not with words but with actions.

Surely there can be no debate now that he is our greatest-ever rugby player and one of our great sportsmen. He would have been frustrated by some of the mistakes that we were making but he didn't panic and he and the coaches must take credit for how they prepared the team this week.

There is no doubt that if we could have played like this earlier in the tournament we would be have won the championship but there is no point in looking back now. We need to understand that we need to bring that intensity to every game we play.

We have a stronger squad now than we did before the tournament, but deliberating on the World Cup can hold.

For now we can celebrate what was a great day for Irish rugby.