26 Feb Reggie’s Corner England vs Ireland 2016 Special
It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s one of the greatest sporting rivalries in the rugby calendar and like in any sport where we play England, the one we all want to win.
Twickenham is a brilliant experience for players and supporters alike. The atmosphere builds from early in the day and with the slightly later kick off of 4:50 there will be some fairly merry English and Irish fans trying to out sing each other outside the stadium from mid-day onwards. Sweet Chariot vs Fields of Athenry being the precursor to the main event.
The fact that both rival fans, can and do mix with such ease before a contest like this, with a minimal police presence watching on and enjoying the entertainment, is somewhat unique and a huge credit to the fans who enjoy this great game.
For the players however once that first whistle blows all friendships go out the window. The English are good and at home they are better. An English rugby player is a dangerous animal and in his own den almost impossible to overcome.
I remember playing them in 2004 in their first game at home since they won the 2003 World Cup and I’m not sure I can recall a more intimidating game in which to be involved. The fear of being smashed, shamed and embarrassed by this incredible team was definitely my overriding emotion and to be honest probably the reason we did as well as we did. We wrecked the home coming party, beat the English in their home, partied till the early morning and went on to win our first Triple Crown for nineteen years. Fear can do funny things to a man!
That fear will be no different this weekend for the current Irish team. Plagued with injury and trying out new and unknown combinations will have them wondering about their ability to overcome an English side who are on a bit of an upward curve.
I’m not convinced about this English side yet under Eddie Jones. There is no doubt he is trying to get them to adopt a different style of play and to have increased confidence in their game but I’m not sure they have been really tested yet.
The question is can this Irish side test them. There is no doubt Joe Schmidt will have a few tricks up his sleeve but it’s whether or not this new and somewhat exciting team can implement them. I delighted to see McCloskey and Van Der Flier in the team. They are two inform players who offer a real threat but this is a big step up for them.
Ireland have got to try to play with ambition in this test. If they stick to type and don’t try a more expansive offloading game they will be beaten. Opposition teams place a huge amount of trust in analysis and Ireland are currently too easy to analyze.
We have to bring a new dimension to this match and try to catch the English out. Unpredictability has to be our weapon. We have gone with a new look team albeit forced to do so, but it’s time to take some risks and throw caution to the wind.
I for one will not criticize a team that tries to be different and offer threats. It will be hard to defend them though if they try to hammer home the same old game plan to no avail against a quality side like England.
My head says England but my heart says Ireland.
Enjoy the game