Ireland in historic test….

Despite the protests, Ireland take the field in what has to be a serious test of nerve (and my own highly speculative five pounds on Ireland to take the Championship).

England arrive relatively buoyant, but the feeling always lurked that Scotland made them look better than they are, and after their pedantic effort against Italy, their true level probably lies somewhere in between.

The debutant David Strettle will bring a youthful and pacy confidence to their wing but the reborn Jason Robinson, ruled out yesterday, has undoubtedly been their sharpest cutting edge. Alongside Olly Morgan, making his first Test start away from home, it gives their back three a callow look.

The perming of Wilkinson and Andy Farrell’s distribution has undoubtedly given England more width. Even so, the quicker the tempo, the better Ireland’s chances. For sure they have to start proactively and crank up the physical intensity – as they did in the second-half against France – from the very kick-off. Rugby is a simple yet brutal game.

First and foremost it’s a fight. Ireland didn’t seem quite attuned to that the last day until after the fight had commenced, but against England, under the Saturday-night lights at Croke Park, such relative passivity will surely not be repeated.

As pertinent as Wilkinson’s dodgy hamstring is O’Driscoll’s healed hamstring. It was eye-opening that his absence was so manifest against France, as much in defence as attack, but the boon of his return may also be felt in D’Arcy and Shane Horgan returning to their natural positions.

O’Driscoll’s defending in the outside centre channel and his potency may well free up his fellow Leinster gamebreakers and even the likes of David Wallace and Denis Leamy. Peter Stringer’s service should also offer the kind of tempo Ireland need.

  • Greenflag

    Michael Robinson,

    ‘Well the South Africans have 2 songs (Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika and Die Stem) but joined into 1 continuous anthem with the first bit in Zulu, then a verse in Afrikaans then a verse in English… ‘

    Good for them but South Africa is one political entity/State not two unlike Ireland /Northern Ireland – so thus not strictly comparable. I still believe the Ireland /NI situation is unique as regards world ‘anthems ‘ for representative sport . The norm is one country one anthem and that sounds more than enough for me .

  • Two Nations

    Paid

    ‘jocks’ – lovely racist language paid. Welcome to 2007.

    I’m sure the Scottish rugby fraternity would very much welcome the fresh blood, but seeing as no one have asked them yet, I would have no idea what their opinion would be. It would be nice to start the conversation though.

    There are more ties between Scotland and Ulster than anywhere else. A closer relationship between the two would be more natural and organic than the artificial one currently in operation on this island.

    Greenflag

    The Anglo nature of the ROI that you speak about has been constantly suppressed since the formation of the State. It would be nice to see it provided with some oxygen in this more confident nu-Ireland.

    The Northern nationalist should be free to join the Ireland team (the ROI football team too). I would not want to stand in the way of anyone’s identity. The key to peace on this island is the ability for people to express their identities as they feel fit. The problem at the minute is that a rugby player from Ulster with unionist (British) identity is unable to express it. The only international team he can play for is one that bears the hallmarks of the Irish Gaelic nation. That is not fair.

    It is nice to see that a Nationalist equates the Ulster British people who have been on this island for 400 years with people who have immigrated here less than five years ago.

    That’s the point though, we are foreigners on this island and we do not belong here. And we should know our place.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Two Nations,
    What makes you think ‘prod’ equals ‘unionist’? It’s little better than the assumption that Ulster players are automatically unionist.

    Wouldn’t Sam Maguire, a Protestant, have been protesting against the foreign game of rugby in Croker?

  • Two Nations

    Aaron

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. Lazy short hand and not everybody’s short hand is the same.

    By prod I mean a person who is protestant AND unionist. I mean the stereotypical Ulster prod – love for Ulster, love for the Queen. I am well aware not all protestants are unionist (and not all unionists are protestant).

    I do not assume the Ulster rugby players are Unionist. I assume some are, some are not and some don’t care.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Two Nations,
    Interesting point. I suppose I would never imagine ‘taig’ as referring to catholic unionists, so I suppose ‘prod’ does indeed mean specifically protestant unionists. Does ‘prod’ also refer to protestant unionists who are also republicans (anti-monarchy) [if they exist]!?

    Perhaps Slugger should put together a glossary?

    Anyway, this is all irrelevant I suppose. And we should avoid confusing terms relating to religion when we are talking about something that has nothing to do with religion such as rugby.

  • Two Nations

    Aaron

    I don’t think republican unionists exist but we are a diverse bunch. I assume that there are enough stubborn, pig-minded prods out there that at least one of them must be a republican unionist.

  • archer

    Have you no pride England play no more sport

  • Diluted Orange

    Green Flag

    [i]‘It would be naive to believe that a team playing in Dublin, playing in green, made up of Easterners , Southerners and a couple of Northerners (no Westerners this time ) and called Ireland would ever be considered anything other than representative of the Irish nation.’

    As you say it would indeed be naive . I trust Diluted Orange will see your point.[/i]

    Seeing as there is not a nation called Ireland I’m afraid I don’t see his point. If, by what you’re pointing out, you mean that I should just accept that any all-Ireland sporting side should just assume the identity of the Republic of Ireland and forget about the little inconvenient irritation of Northern Ireland, which co-exists on the same island, I don’t agree and don’t see why I should. All-Ireland does not equate to Republic of Ireland (plus Northern Nationalists).

    You seem incapable of accepting that a significant number of Unionists occupy this island with you and anything performed on an all-Ireland context, not just in sport but in other realms too, should strive to include them instead of marginalising them. The Republic’s anthem, President, flag and Prime Minister are all fixtures of any Irish rugby international yet there are no Unionist emblems to be seen. There hasn’t been a match played by the Irish team in Belfast for decades and when they finally do so, next year, a reciprocation of the IRFU’s gestures in Dublin to the Unionist community in Belfast will not be forthcoming. To use a cliché: it’s hardly parity of esteem on behalf of the IRFU.

    Whether the IRFU should be immersing itself in the colours and ethos of the Republic and conveniently forget those of Northern Ireland shouldn’t even be up for debate; in an all-Ireland context the Irish rugby team ought to be neutral in such manners and apolitical. If Ireland’s Call was the only anthem played we would then avoid such nonsensical bickering over what should represent the Irish rugby team and whether GSTQ should be played in Belfast or not.

    I have yet to hear a plausible reason on this thread as to why the Soldier’s Song should be played in Dublin and GSTQ should not be played in Belfast when the team plays at those 2 venues. Surely the only way forward is to drop both anthems from the schedule.

  • páid

    Two nations.

    ‘Jocks’ is racist!

    I claim the prize for the least-racist racist comment ever made.

    And before you explain to the SRU your plans for a ‘greater scotch nation’, I’d look up the circumstances in which our Jockie MacJock cousins prefer the uses of Scots, Scotch, and Scottish.

    DO,
    if you stop demanding an end to anthems, i’ll stop agreeing with you.

  • Henry94

    DO

    In reality, if it becomes a big deal, the way forward is not to play in Belfast so don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. To be represented by GSTQ would create a crisis that would destroy the support that the IRFU have built up for the game. And it would cause players to refuse to play.

    And the Ulster Branch know it too. If they shared your view they would have proposals on the table. Why don’t they? There is no seriousness behind your argument unless it is made within the IRFU. Their team, their decision.

  • Southern Observer

    I think the present position could be improved upon by playing IC plus Danny Boy (the nearest thing to a bicommunally acceptable NI anthem) in Ravenhill.
    There has been a problem of sectorisation in Irish rugby – middle class in the South and Protestant in the North which is being slowly addressed.
    Put yourself in the position of a young NI Catholic/nationalist thinking of taking up rugby.How do you think he will react to some of the material posted here and in other threads?

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Greenflag,

    We’re not that unique. There is arguably a more famous example (certainly more successful) of an international sporting team representing different nations/peoples/traditions – the West Indies Cricket team.

    This is a team that is made up of a multitude of different countries and is representative of different organisations. They overcome natural rivalries between the different states and present a (largely) unified face. The flag and anthem is not based on who has the most players and fans but instead remains resolutely neutral. The flag itself is a rather nifty symbol of cricket in the Caribbean:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:West_Indies_Cricket_Board_Flag.svg

    While anthems are not as important in cricket as rugby, there is also a specific anthem for the West Indies cricket team. No, it isn’t Bob Marley, Sean Paul or Rhiannon but a ditty called ‘Rally round the West Indies’.

    With regards to a multitude of songs at a rugby match again its not uncommon. I was at a Bledisloe Cup game a couple of years ago where they played the Aussie national anthem, the Kiwi national anthem, Waltzing Matilda, then the All Blacks performed the haka and eventually a game of rugby broke out. How about at home matches, as a compromise, SS neatly segueing into Danny Boy and a rousing rendition of IC for the crowd, after the anthems while the teams get ready for kick-off?

  • My wife’s uncle is Welsh and an avid follower of his national team. When he and his mates come over to Dublin for matches, invariably they end up in a sing-song somewhere. Their latest ditty goes like this (to the tune of Ireland’s Call):

    Ireland, Ireland, forever singing songs
    When, oh when, will
    The rugby ever come on?

  • Greenflag

    Two Nations

    ‘The Anglo nature of the ROI that you speak about has been constantly suppressed since the formation of the State. It would be nice to see it provided with some oxygen in this more confident nu-Ireland.’

    ditto

    ‘The Gaelic nature of the Ireland that you don’t speak about has been constantly suppressed since the 12th and more particularly the 16th century.
    The 40,000 British immigrants who have settled in the Republic this past decade have so far not complained about the lack of any oxygen !

    ‘The problem at the minute is that a rugby player from Ulster with unionist (British) identity is unable to express it. The only international team he can play for is one that bears the hallmarks of the Irish Gaelic nation. That is not fair. ‘

    Newsflash -Two nations – Life is not fair -If it was there would have been English conquest of Ireland nor would there have been Empires or colonialism and one presumes your ancestors would have been content to remain aloft in the trees rather than come down to earth 🙂 As I said I sympathise with the predicament you mention but I look at the bigger picture.

    ‘It is nice to see that a Nationalist equates the Ulster British people who have been on this island for 400 years with people who have immigrated here less than five years ago. ‘

    I’m not equating you or British Unionists with anybody . I don’t care where people’s distant or recent ansestors come from – if they’re good enough and want to play rugby or soccer or Gaelic football for Ireland then it’s a matter for them individually . I don’t make the rules for the IRFU .

    ‘That’s the point though, we are foreigners on this island and we do not belong here. And we should know our place. ‘

    Nobody can make you feel foreign without your consent . If you consent to feeling foreign tthen you are . Nothing wrong with that there are hundreds of thousands of first generation ‘foreigners’ in the Irish Republic and the vast majority of them are doing fine and would appear not to suffer the ‘identity pangs’ which you seem to portray .

    As I said before last Saturday’s game may have been a little more than just the usual Ireland v England annual six nations tie on account of the venue but when all is said and done that’s what it was . No British Unionist attendee was stripped of his /her national identity or forced to wave the tricolour or sing Amhrain Na Bhfiann etc etc.

    Mountain and mole hill come to mind .

  • Greenflag

    ‘You seem incapable of accepting that a significant number of Unionists occupy this island with you ‘

    I plead not guilty yer honour to the charge . In fact I’m so delighted by their ‘occupation
    that my political preference would be that they form a separate mostly British Unionist State following a fair repartition of the six counties administered by a neutral international organisation. This would certainly solve all and any ‘anthem’ and representative sports issues dear to the heart of those British Unionists who believe in the ‘importance’ of such issues!

    ‘I have yet to hear a plausible reason on this thread as to why the Soldier’s Song should be played in Dublin and GSTQ should not be played in Belfast when the team plays at those 2 venues. ‘

    What we have here Diluted Orange is a failure to communicate and/or a failure to listen /read on your part . Two very plausible reasons have been mentioned . The first and most important is as usual -money – the dosh – the folding stuff -which makes the world go around and keeps the bankers to whom the IRFU are in hock happy and content to finance the Lansdowne road renovations .

    The second plausible reason is that many probably a majority of the Irish rugby team will not stand for GSTQ as their ‘national anthem ‘ and may refuse to play some perhaps out of strongly felt principles but most probably for the practical reason that it would not be good for the sport from a most of Ireland perspective . The sport needs to attract more players from the large nationalist community in NI almost half the population in that State if it is to grow.

    ‘Surely the only way forward is to drop both anthems from the schedule. ‘

    Not a good idea for games played in Dublin but I can live with Amhrain Na Bhfiann not being played at Ravenhill with just Ireland’s Call being played .

    Again I don’t make the IRFU rules but I’m sure at least I hope that that association is motivated by their concern for the future of the game across all of Ireland and not just in a small area around Belfast .

  • Greenflag

    ‘The World’s Gone Mad’

    No ‘Danny Boy ‘ This sentimental oul dirge is suitable only for those too pissed to bother and should be confined to it’s perennial role as a signal to those present that the pub is about to close and taxis need to be called 🙂

    As for the West Indies comparison ? I don’t think so for two reasons . They belong to that section of humanity that most Irish people and most people on the planet do not belong to 🙂 They enjoy cricket and do not fall asleep watching it:)

  • No Dozer

    Greenflag

    Apology accepted. Like you I am bored with the topic. I just hope that the anti-Unionist I.R.F.U. will wise up and drop the contentious (for Unionists) S.S.

    A neutral anthem and flag are the way to unify both Unionist and Nationalist rugby fans. Does anyone have a problem with this?

  • Cap’n Bob

    http://www.ministryofsound.com/ministryofsound/mostv/feature.aspx?media=f302ecd8-0fa7-4750-b08c-4ae2d5ebc14c&ch=ad

    they could play any damn anthem they wanted so long as this lot played it!

    Grrow up children!

  • dub

    fact: ulster flag was flown alongside tricolour at the match

    fact: 2 anthems were sung to honour all parts of irish nation

    how on earth can anyone say irfu are not making an effort here??

    former ireland supporter and others like him/her apparently supported ireland “passionately” years ago when only ss and tricolour were sung and flown… now that ulster flag and ireland’s call are included they are up in arms about roi only identity of ireland team… this makes no sense whatsoever.

    the logic of ireland’s call is that it will replace ss as it is written as an inclusive song.. not as an ulster song…

    the flag issue is sorted as both are flown and unionist suppporters of the team can always bring along ni flags as basque supporters of french team bring along their flag..

    anthem issue IS also sorted after ireland’s call being brought in.. it could be more sorted by ireland’s call replacing ss entirely or a more ulster song replacing ireland’s call and being sung in perpetuity together with ss.

    But to say that irfu are doing nothing when in fact they have done a hell of a lot to bring about inclusivity in flag and anthem policy is simply factually incorret and therefore being peddled by ignoramuses or out of malice with no regard for the facts.

    lastly worth pointing out that if we go down 2 anthem route into perpetuity and ireland’s call is to be replaced by a more ulster tune then perhaps the unionist rejectionist squad here could suggest one… of course it would not then by definition be a representative ulster tune but one only representing unionists in ulster who shock horror are actually a minority in ulster..

    danny boy would work though very well i would have thought…

  • slugger reader

    1.
    Surely it was the Ulster branch who pressurised the IRFU into abandoning Amhran na bhFiann abroad and using just Ireland’s Call? Since unionists are clear that Northern Ireland is a different country to the Republic, and therefore abroad, then Ireland’s Call it will be at Ravenhill against Italy.
    Posted by Gerenian Nestor on Feb 20, 2007 @ 08:30 PM