Thursday 26 April 2018

Grand Slam glory: We were bursting with pride, say families of rugby heroes

CJ Stander’s wife Jean-Marie Neethling puts her feet up at home with the couple’s dogs. Photo: Mark Condren
CJ Stander’s wife Jean-Marie Neethling puts her feet up at home with the couple’s dogs. Photo: Mark Condren
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

There's no rest for Ireland's Grand Slam heroes.

Jean-Marie Neethling, the wife of CJ Stander, told how her husband is already preparing to return to Munster's training grounds after Ireland's 24-15 victory over England on Saint Patrick's Day.

Stander scored Ireland's second try of the match, diving to touch the ball off the base of the post.

But after a short, sharp celebration, Stander is already focused on Munster's upcoming games.

"It's straight back into the routine, the season is not over," she said. "Munster have some important matches coming up."

Ms Neethling was in the stands in Twickenham and spoke of the immense pride she felt watching the entire tournament.

CJ Stander kisses wife Jean-Marie in the stands at Twickenham after winning the Grand Slam. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
CJ Stander kisses wife Jean-Marie in the stands at Twickenham after winning the Grand Slam. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"I am very proud of him and the team. It was a massive team effort and every match counted. It's still surreal to think they've won," she said.

"It has been great for them because there has been a lot of stress and sacrifice. They've had nine or 10 weeks in camp.

"After CJ scored, I was just waiting for the referee to confirm it was a try, but my brother flew over for the match and he threw his arms around my neck and started screaming.

"A lot of the families were in the west corner and everyone was jumping for joy."

Garry Ringrose celebrates Ireland's Six Nations win at Twickenham. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Garry Ringrose celebrates Ireland's Six Nations win at Twickenham. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

While the atmosphere in the stadium was electric, the team's welcome home reception was just as meaningful for the squad.

"Coming home was really special because you could see how much the win meant to fans. The reception was great," Ms Neethling said.

Other family members of the squad were also riding high after Ireland's historic win.

At the start of the season, 20-year-old Jordan Larmour was hoping to play for the Leinster team and maybe secure "a few caps".

Now he's setting his sights on playing for Ireland in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"We are bursting with pride," his father Ian Larmour said. "I have all the newspapers on the kitchen table and am going through them, reading all the coverage."

Getting to Twickenham was a challenge for the Larmour family thanks to snow and freezing winds.

"It was a battle to get there and a battle to get back. It was a very chilly stadium, but we warmed up fairly fast.

"The atmosphere was fantastic … I had a feeling they would do it but there was definitely some nervousness there."

He added: "We couldn't be prouder of him, it's what he's always wanted to do."

Garry Ringrose (23) became the third player to wear the No 13 jersey for Ireland in this Six Nations after Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell were injured.

Ringrose was drafted in for the final two games and scored the first try for Ireland on Saturday.

Yesterday, his father Niall said: "It was fortuitous that he got to play - that's the nature of rugby.

"We are delighted for him and all the lads. Any professional rugby player's goal is to win the Grand Slam so it's an incredible achievement."

Blackrock College principal Alan MacGinty said past pupils Garry Ringrose, Jordi Murphy and Joey Carbery had done the school proud.

Ringrose claimed a senior cup medal with the south Dublin school in 2013. Mr MacGinty said that "intelligence and integrity" helped him to the top.

He added that the three Grand Slam winners were inspirations for younger generations.

He said: "The three guys have all had their challenges with injury. From the school point of view that resilience shows them to be role models.

"They deserve all the plaudits. They are ordinary guys doing extraordinary things."

Irish Independent

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