Pencil in Saturday the 28th February in your sporting calendar – this is arguably the biggest game of the year so far! What could be spicier than an Ireland v England game in Croke Park to a sell out audience of 82,000. It’s all to play for! Kick off is at 5.30pm.
The Six Nations will be past the half way mark at this stage, and all teams will know their respective standings. This game may well be Ireland’s last Six Nations game at Croke Park for the moment, with Lansdowne Road scheduled to be re-opened in 2010.
The previous encounter between these two sides at Croke Park was played in February 2007 in an emotionally charged atmosphere. Emotions ran so high that several Irish players were visibly moved to tears by the resounding crescendo of the Irish national anthem that filled the air before the kick off. The match atmosphere for this game was absolutely electric, and for sure this meeting will be equally as dramatic.
In 2007 Ireland ran out hugely impressive 43-13 winners, and were clearly inspired by the evocative nature of the game, and the surroundings – this was the Irish team’s largest win over England at this level. Ireland scored 4 brilliant tries and Ronan O’Gara converted 5 successful penalties in a comprehensive drubbing of the English team.
To their credit, the England team battled to the last, but to no avail as this was Ireland’s day, and it was perhaps the peak of Eddie O’Sullivan’s tenure as Ireland’s National coach. A disastrous 2007 World Cup showing and a poor 2008 Six Nations led to his resignation, and the appointment of Declan Kidney.
Both teams come into the 2009 Six Nations eager to make amends for poor seasons. And not only do the teams play for the Millennium Trophy annually in this fixture, there’s the whole historical connotations of an Ireland v England clash.
Since 1988 the Six Nations game between the two teams doubles as a decider for the Millennium Trophy, a Trophy that was initiated for Dublin’s Millennium of 1988. The trophy takes the form of a horned Viking Helmet. Last year, Ireland were trounced 33-10 at Twickenham, a new low for Irish Rugby given their recent dominance in the Six Nations tournament over England. In fact this was England’s first success over Ireland since 2003!
It’s fair to say that both teams are currently in transition. Ireland are now coached by Munster legend Declan Kidney, and his aim is to spruce up the talented Irish team with an addition of skilful young players such as Keith Earls, Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip, Tomas O’Leary and Tommy Bowe.
The 2008 Autumn tests against the mighty All Blacks and the Pumas from Argentina gave a glimmer of hope to the Irish Rugby team that form is temporary and there are good times ahead. Certainly the second half display against the Pumas showed the strength of Ireland’s resolve under increasing pressure, and this bodes well ahead of the 2009 campaign.
Similarly England, despite finishing 2nd in the Six Nations Pool of 2008, the team finished well off the pace, finishing well below Grand Slam winners Wales. Former coach Brian Ashton (who took England to the World Cup Final 2007) was dismissed, and replaced by controversial former captain Martin Johnson.
Similarly to Kidney, Johnson has tried to introduce young talent to the fold, and players such as Danny Cipriani and captain Steve Borthwick are the key players in the squad. Johnson’s men come into the 2009 Six Nations in terrible form and a disastrous Autumn international series saw them lose heavily to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The team will be eager to make amends in the 2009 Six Nations – so it’s all to play for!
The game is a sell out, and promises to be an exciting encounter with both camps having points to prove. Who will be the winner? The game is a sell out so if you have an admission ticket you are one of the lucky 82,000 people who will attend! RTE 2 and the BBC will also televise the game so you can enjoy the game and have a few drinks and soak up the atmosphere close to Croke Park! Kick off is at 5.30pm.
Find out more about Croke Park.
No doubt you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay. If you haven’t booked anything yet take a look at our hotels in Dublin page.
Been to Croke Park for a Rugby International? Give us your thoughts; we’d love to hear from you!