Saturday 20 January 2018

Foden takes extra incentive from 'arrogant' claim and Irish ties

David Kelly

David Kelly

For a contest between putative championship also-rans, Ireland sure have invested a lot of emotional energy in this evening's visit to Twickenham.

First we had Stephen Ferris' exhortation that England are bad losers, unwittingly doffing a hat to his opponents.

The mild-mannered Rob Kearney then insisted that Ireland were a better team than England, a claim recently mocked by England's championship success last season and far superior win-loss ratio during the past 12 months.

And then Donncha O'Callaghan threw his tuppence-worth in, explaining how the English jersey presents itself like the proverbial red rag to a bull.

Speaking of bull, one would far prefer if Ireland invested such worthy words on opponents they regularly struggle against, such as their perennial bête noire, France, and the team they have failed to beat in their international history, New Zealand.

In mitigation, Ferris was merely highlighting the historical intimacy of the rugby relationship between these two countries which, until recent years at all age levels, was horrible skewed.

"By the way, I haven't said the English are arrogant," Ferris smiled, in a vain attempt to erase this week's inflammatory headlines.

"I think it's confidence too. You see Chris Ashton diving over the line, doing swallow dives or whatever he does, you know, there's a lot of confidence to do that. But, yeah, maybe if you did take that out of their game they might not be as good.

"But they're playing some good stuff at the minute and they've every right to be confident going out on to the pitch on Saturday."

In the opposing camp, meanwhile, the contrast couldn't be starker. Yet it is eminently understandable.

Humility has supplanted hubris in Team England, personified and directed by their mild-mannered coach Stuart Lancaster, betraying every inch of his modest north of England roots.

Full-back Ben Foden may, on the surface, impart the perceived arrogance of which Irish players speak but, in a week when he fathered a first daughter -- Aoife, obviously -- with his Tipperary pop star partner, Una Healy, his relative modesty is refreshing, mere months after the red rose was so tarnished at the World Cup.

"It's confidence rather than arrogance," he is eager to stress. "I think that to play this game you need a certain degree of confidence in your ability, especially at international level. You wouldn't be there unless you had shown your ability."

This week in particular represents a swirl of responsibility for the Northampton Saints man.

"It just seems like Ireland are the haunting of my life at the moment, with my missus waiting for me at home, (Leinster) beating us in the final of the Heineken Cup, Ireland stopping us from winning a Grand Slam.

"It seems like it's a bit of a curse since I met Una! She is very supportive for me individually. It's a little different as she says she is allowed to support us as a club because Munster are her team.

"But when it's England v Ireland it's a little bit different. Her sister will be over with her boyfriend Joe and they are wearing their full Irish kit.

"I will meet them after the game and they will rub it in my face as they would do. And it's St Patrick's Day as well!

"But I think that is part and parcel of the game. They don't wish bad on me, they want me to do as well as I possibly can.

"They are very supportive as Ireland is a massive rugby nation."

Una says she doesn't mind who wins, she will be happy both ways.

"If Ireland win but Ben scores three tries and is man of the match I will be happy."

Bad loser? Not a bit of it.

Irish Independent

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