It was a physical battle in Cardiff but sore bodies won't come into it against England
Seán O'Brien tackles Mike Phillips last Saturday. Photograph: Inpho/Getty Images
Jonathan Sexton prevents a certain score by Toby Faletau. Photograph: Inpho/Getty Images
FROM THE BLINDSIDE:Pain is part of a rugby player’s living and Wales was the perfect preparation, writes ALAN QUINLAN
When the game was over last Saturday, I made my way down to the area of the Millennium Stadium between the tunnel and the dressing room and got to see some of the Ireland players. They looked sore and like they had taken a huge amount of bangs and knocks in the course of what was a hugely physical game.
But there is another look that you see in a winning dressingroom after a game like that. No matter how sore the players were, the main look on their faces was one of pure contentment. When you come through a battle like that, the satisfaction of the day’s work is what you feel above and beyond everything else.
When you play rugby for a living, you come to accept that pain is just part and parcel of your everyday life. You are always going to have some sort of ache or strain or bruise or scar at the very least. You would never class any of them as an actual injury, obviously. Still, just because they wouldn’t keep you out of a game doesn’t mean they don’t hurt.
Everybody who watched the game on Saturday saw the physical effort the Ireland players put in to keep Wales at bay in that second half. On the back of it, there has been a lot said and written in the last few days about how hard it will be for them to recover for the England game. But to be honest, people have it the wrong way around.
The level of physicality last Saturday will do Ireland far more good than harm building up to Sunday. This is why rugby players do so much conditioning work in their day-to-day lives. They are forever making sure they strengthen muscles and ligaments so that when they go into games they are able to absorb all the hits and bangs. It might sound strange to think of it this way but a game like last Saturday is just about the best work-out.
It was, as everybody has said, a bloody hard physical game. It would have been harder on the Irish lads than the Welsh lads because defending always takes a bigger toll on your body than attacking. To defend for that long is a tough business and there’s a lot of pain going through your body as you do it. People might think that the adrenaline means you don’t feel the pain but that’s only true up to a point. It definitely hurts.
All over the place
But it’s always better when you’re winning. I remember playing in a trial game at Lansdowne Road before the 2003 World Cup. It was one of these games where the ball was being thrown all over the place and there was no kicking. The ball was in play for ages and the team I was on was attacking. We scored a try after a passage of play where the ball was alive for ages and ages and as we went back for the conversion, Paul O’Connell turned to me and said he was wrecked.
(Well, he used other words but we’ll keep it clean). I was barely able to talk as well but the first thing that came to my head was, “Imagine how they feel after us scoring.”