Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ireland features twice in the 10 greatest rivalries in rugby union

Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

The Daily Telegraph has compiled the 10 fiercest international rivalries in rugby union and Ireland's competitive spirit features twice in the list.

The English paper focuses attention on 10 fixtures that set the pulses of fans, players and coaches involved.

The rivalries range from New Zealand versus Australia, to the less glamorous Russia against Georgia, while Ireland makes two appearances on the list.

Not surprisingly, the annual fixture with near neighbours England is selected.

"A fixture which has 'history' - and not all of it on the field," the article contends. "The complicated relationship between the two countries often finds its most eloquent expression on the rugby field, and there is no scalp that the Irish prize more highly.

The never-to-be-forgotten clash with England at Croke Park in 2007 is referenced, "a win made all the sweeter by virtue of coming at Croke Park, an arena redolent with its own unhappy history - although the feelings do not just run one way."

"When Martin Johnson refused to budge for the Irish president Mary McAleese for a pre-match presentation at Lansdowne Road in 2003 - England had lined up on Ireland's preferred left-hand side of the red carpet, in a memorable display of bloody-mindedness - the cheers could be heard across the Irish Sea."

Ireland versus Wales, a rivalry which has been simmering for more than a decade, also makes the cut.

"An all-Celtic squabble that has its roots in a brawl in a Belfast theatre in 1914, when Wales' notoriously combative forwards - the 'Terrible Eight' - were allegedly set upon by their Irish counterparts," the article informs readers.

"The game that followed was dubbed the roughest ever played, and so the tone was set for a rivalry which - while not quite brimming with the kind of political and cultural animosity that marks both nations' meetings with England, regularly provides fireworks.

"Their meeting in 2005, which saw Gavin Henson and Brian O’Driscoll go at each other like rabid dogs, while there is still resentment in Ireland over the treatment meted out to Brian O'Driscoll on the 2013 Lions Tour, which Warren Gatland pack his side with Welshmen. “Probably, out of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most,” Gatland noted in 2009. He's probably still right."

10 biggest rivalries in rugby union

Samoa v Wales

Ireland v England

Georgia v Russia

Wales v Ireland

England v Scotland

New Zealand v France

France v England

Australia v New Zealand

England v Wales

South Africa v New Zealand

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