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'I've never seen a dressing-room like that. It was a bloodbath' - Ireland, South Africa and the Battle of Pretoria

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Victor Costello is tackled in the air during the 'Battle of Pretoria' between Ireland and South Africa in 1998.
© INPHO/Billy Stickland

Victor Costello is tackled in the air during the 'Battle of Pretoria' between Ireland and South Africa in 1998. © INPHO/Billy Stickland

Victor Costello is tackled in the air during the 'Battle of Pretoria' between Ireland and South Africa in 1998. © INPHO/Billy Stickland

"I’ve been in rugby a long time, been in a lot of dressing-rooms. I played in dirty, vicious games. I’ve never seen a dressing-room like that one after the game. There was blood everywhere, the amount of stitching that was done. It was just a bloodbath."

The scene painted by Donal Lenihan occurred 22 years ago, when an Irish team coached by Warren Gatland brought its seven-match odyssey around South Africa to a close in ignominious circumstances with the 'Battle of Pretoria'.

The 36-man panel had been on the road for the best part of a month on the last of the old-school tours and, while results didn’t go their way and they finished with a 33-0 defeat, to a man they recall the trip fondly.