It’s time to start building a fortress. From the Irish Times:
WHEN IRELAND first returned to Lansdowne Road in the autumn of 2010, Brian O’Driscoll spoke for all when declaring Ireland’s need to make the Aviva a fortress. Alas, not helped by the IRFU’s ticketing fiasco, as fortresses go it’s been more akin to the Maginot Line, which the Germans stormed in about a day.
Should be comfortable – Italy can be awkward – but in areas where Ireland are masters of awkwardness.
At Twickenham there, apparently, are more than a few ways to skin a cat. From the Independent:
…..By comparison, an afternoon spent tangling with North sounds positively pleasurable. There has, however, been an ongoing discussion among the England players on the best way to cramp the style of the supersized Welsh backs. Should they be tackled high as a means of preventing the killer offload? Go high on North or Jamie Roberts and there is always the risk of being bounced off, in the way the Austin Healeys and Jeremy Guscotts were routinely swatted aside by Jonah Lomu in the 1990s. Go low? That creates the alternative peril of bringing a mobile and predatory Welsh back row into play.
“It’s a tough one,” Strettle acknowledges. “Ideally, you want to chop them off at the knees or ankles and bring them to the floor. As Brad Barritt [the England centre who plays alongside Strettle at club level] said earlier in the week, they can’t run without their legs. But that’s not necessarily going to prevent the player offloading, because if he falls the right way and has the support, he can do it very effectively off the deck. Rugby is a game that fools you into thinking you’ve done the right thing and then lets you know you’ve done the wrong one when you watch the video. I’ll approach it as I always approach these things. I’ll try to get a sense of what’s happening and do what I think is best at the time.”
In Wales of course it’s the biggest weekend in Welsh sporting history. From the Western Mail:
They say good things come in threes. In the next 48 hours a serendipitous collision of rugby, boxing and football might just make this the biggest weekend in the history of Welsh sport.
Tonight Nathan Cleverly defends his WBO world light-heavyweight title against Tommy Karpency in Cardiff. Tomorrow Cardiff City take on Liverpool in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley. And this afternoon it’s Wales v England at Twickenham.
Wales will set the tone for a sporting weekend with a sense of history. As chronicler of the game Professor Gareth Williams informs me, it is the first time England and Wales are playing each other for the Triple Crown in Twickenham.
Remarkably, Wales have never contested England in England when both teams are bidding for the home nations prize. They’ve done it in Cardiff, most memorably in 1979 – a year that brought Wales a fourth consecutive Triple Crown – but not at HQ.
I’m not really bothered about Cardiff City or Nathan Cleverly but this Welsh team looks super.
And it’s Scotland France tomorrow – the Scotsman quotes the fabulous Gregor Townsend:
“We’ve come very close to winning in three of our last four games,” Townsend said yesterday. “There is disappointment there, but I firmly believe we’ve made a lot of progress as a team.
“The pleasing thing for me is the amount of opportunities we are creating. We have worked a lot on composure, and I think you could see that was improved in the Wales game.
“I was so proud of the players in Cardiff. We shouldn’t be looking for plaudits when we lose, but for large parts of the second half it was a great effort against a team who are now recognised as one of the best in the world and who really came to the fore at the World Cup. We are introducing young players into the side who are really stepping up, so there is real optimism that the wins will come.
Here’s a little something to help you enjoy your weekend:
Click image to open interactive version (via Thomson Holidays).