The Paddy Wallace Blog – Ireland vs England

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So we are passed that hurdle and what a great victory it was against England in Dublin. The scoreline of 19-9 was about right at the end, but the performance in the first half was so good that Ireland would not have been flattered by a more sizeable lead.

The Irish team is now on a different level than ever before in our history of playing international rugby. We are ranked third in the world, and have beaten every other major team except the All Blacks and we were a minute from winning that match too.

The credit for this needs to be spread around. Once Rugby Union became professional, there was a possibility that Ireland might have been left behind, with the very top players being attracted to clubs overseas. While a few have gone, most have remained. This was made possible by the brilliant idea to make the Provinces become clubs, and to combine that with central contracts for the International players. Without this brainwave, would Brian O’Driscoll have played all his rugby in Ireland? By being able to attract players to our clubs, players like me were able to line up and learn from players who had represented the All Blacks, Springboks, as well as the Home Nations. John Aofa, Johann Muller and others introduced our local forwards to new techniques.

If you had told me earlier in my career that I would be lining up with Ruan Pienaar for Ulster, I would have looked at you twice, but it was great to play with him, to see his talent close up and learn from him too, even as my career was coming to an end.

So now the talk is of Grand Slams and Championships, but the players will be keeping their feet on the pitch. There is a lot of experience on the team, having played big matches for both club and country. Wales are not going to roll over and let us win, they still have a chance to win the Six Nations, and we will be playing away. It will be a big match, and Ireland will need another big performance, but I think we can do it, and then travel to Edinburgh for the final match with our fate in our own hands.

Paddy Wallace

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