In the third round of the Six Nations we delve first into Scotland’s emotional turmoil during their clashes with Italy, and next the fiery encounters between England and Ireland that have often decided the outcome of the championship.
Scotland versus Italy
2000 had been a pretty dismal season for Scotland. Having won the last Championship expectations were quite high, but we went down to Italy for game one of the new Six Nations and got brought back down to earth with an almighty bump – and things deteriorated from there.
What happened against Italy in 2000? Poor preparation and too much
confidence following a successful previous year. I still remember posing for a photo eating pasta a couple of days before the game. I looked like such a chopper, especially in light of the result. I remember a fan approaching me after the match and announcing that I had ruined his expensive weekend. Funny how everyone celebrates when we win but we stand alone in defeat. It was a valuable lesson for the whole team.
That first game was obviously huge for Italy and they played very well to win, but we really didn’t help ourselves. There was the saga of John Leslie playing when he had hardly trained after coming back from injury and was named as captain, and then after only a short time he broke down injured and had to go off. It was a shambles, the whole thing, and none of us were at the races.
To be honest, if there was one game in my whole rugby career that I could erase, the first match against Italy at the start of the Six Nations in 2000 would be the one. Definitely. Horrendous…
And every time I went back to Northampton from Scotland games that season, the boys were playing the theme tune from The Italian Job; every bloody week.
Ireland versus England
I was in for the 1959 season, overlooked in 1960, and back again in 1961, before crossing codes to rugby league. Over those three years we didn’t achieve anything, so it’s difficult to have a highlight. I suppose kicking the winning goal against Ireland to win 3-0 at Lansdowne Road in 1959 is one – but it was totally different to any other rugby I had played. At that time England had a no-risk policy, and we never scored more than eight points.
I’d have gone to the North Pole if it meant a cap. As it transpired, David Duckham broke his cheekbone, but he wouldn’t come off, so I had to wait a little longer.
When we ran on we were greeted by a wall of sound so huge that you didn’t hear it, you felt it, it was noise that could have split your eardrums. A few of us broke down, including me. I was very tearful for a few moments. I do remember thinking it just can’t be better than this.
A school teacher friend of mine brought around some documents and press cuttings a few years back about the other Bloody Sunday in 1920 with British troops shooting civilian fans dead at a GA game at CrokePark, and again I realised looking back that this was potentially an explosive situation given what was going on.
Anyway my ignorance was bliss, plus I had also got it in my mind somewhere that the IRA were on the record somewhere as having said they would never target a sports event in Ireland. Most of us decided to go, and you were very aware of heightened security to start with. We had armed security guards on the bus and on our floor at the Shelbourne Hotel, but strangely they seemed to clock off on the Friday night and we never saw them again. I fancy they had a big night and that was it. The authorities were very clever and put the two teams in the same hotel which would be pretty unusual these days. If the bombers wanted to get us they would take half of the Ireland rugby team as well.
Other players and commentators talk of the noise when we ran on but I never noticed it – but I’m not a good judge of these things. As ever I was just concentrating on the match, and getting on with it. I hated all the formalities.
I’ve got no idea what I would have said if England had won, but there was little chance of that. Irish hospitality didn’t extend to gifting us anything on the pitch. They were well worth their 18-9 win.
I was called up at fullback against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 1987. The wind blew and the rain poured, and by that stage I’d pretty well forgotten how to play fullback because I was playing fly-half every weekend for Bath. I was exquisitely awful.
Tom Wood (2011)
It felt pretty much like we’d had our hearts ripped out in that game against Ireland. We didn’t go to Dublin for scars or lessons. We went for a Grand Slam and we got it wrong. It was unacceptable and a bitter pill to swallow and brought us back down to earth, even though we ultimately won the Championship.
Toby Flood (on then captain Lewis Moody)
He couldn’t distinguish between training and a game – it was all 100 miles an hour. And the guys responded to that really well. You looked at it and raised your eyebrows a little bit and just thought, ‘Well, that’s Lewis’.
It’s sure to be another cracking weekend of rugby folks! Don’t miss out!