Auld enemies fight on but a bit less intense for Ireland and England

Tom McGurk and George Hook, on the home stretch, were happy not to pull any punches

‘Kool and the Gang’: Keith Wood was full of praise for Mike Ross during Ireland’s Six Nations defeat of England at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

‘Kool and the Gang’: Keith Wood was full of praise for Mike Ross during Ireland’s Six Nations defeat of England at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

So did you pop out yesterday in the sunshine for a pound of butter? And then have to slide your way back like a Nordic skier? All the time fretting about the Lansdowne pitch and whether Johnny’d be able to keep his feet in the snow while doing his ball-kicking thing?

How is it, Ronan?

“You could liken it to a frying pan with a bit of butter on it,” the O’Gara man said of the surface when he chatted with Shane Horgan, so that didn’t sound good, although as kick-off approached, the sun had come out again, so you trusted the butter would dissolve, leaving the frying pan dry so Johnny would have a firm footy grip.

Because this was a rather important tussle against a nation with whom we have a bit of history and whom we’re quite fond of defeating.

“It is the friendliest of rivalries,” said John Inverdale over on the BBC, and Keith Wood was nearly hospitalised from the laughing.

Bullied

Different views , then, although John did concede that the days when these expeditions to Dublin were just about a pint or 36 in Temple Bar, then two points, before returning to Eng-er-land, were over.

“Whereas once the trip to Dublin for England fans was more about the craic than the crunch, now it’s nearly all about the match not the lunch,” he said, leaving Jeremy Guscott giggling and Clive ‘Sir’ Woodward wriggling.

The knight, incidentally, had been entirely optimistic pre-match – “England’s pack will dominate this game, so they should win by five points” – a view not shared by the RTÉ lads, two of whom, Tom McGurk and George Hook, were making their last home Six Nations appearance.

Ronan had paid a moving tribute to George midweek – “He could be watching golf – George shites on about what he wants” – but emotions were kept in check yesterday, even during the anthems.

(Did you see what Gareth Thomas said? That he didn’t appreciate having to stand around for our two anthems, nor having to meet “random dignitaries” – “For [beep’s] sake, who else have we got to meet? Are you going to bring your mother and father down next?” You know, next time we should get the band to play Amhrán na bhFiann, Ireland’s Call (the 12-inch version), The Fields of Athenry for Connacht, Danny Boy for Ulster, Stand Up and Fight for Munster and Dublin in The Rare Ould Times for Leinster (Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Wexford, Carlow, Wicklow, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Kilkenny: “Excuse me?”) – it’d be worth 15 points at least).

Any way, the panel was confident-ish, George not even worried about the impact England’s Billy Vunipola might have on the game – “A South Pacific JCB” – and forecast a victory, which would make it 10 wins in a row, prompting, he feared, even more “mass posterior kissing by the media” of Joe Schmidt. Conor O’Shea and Brent Pope argued that Joe’s bottom deserved that much affection after the run of wins, but George felt there was too much loving going on.

The match? Speaking of butter: Connacht Gold, Robbie Henshaw. He didn’t win it singlehandedly, but his try did no harm at all, and the friendly rivals were sent home with divil a point in their luggage.

“Are you happy?” Tom asked George who looked like he’d just lost his EuroMillions winning ticket. So George accused Tom of “perpetrating a calumny for 17 years that somehow I’m not happy when Ireland win – it’s outrageous, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers”.

No legal issues back on the BBC.

John: “How good is this Irish team?”

Keith (purring): “I think they’re only at 80 per cent.”

John’s face: [Mother of God, imagine what they’d have done if they were at 110 per cent?]

Mike Ross? “He was Kool and the Gang,” said Keith.

Celebrate good times – come on.

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