dark days

Five days to forget in Ireland's Six Nations rivalry with England

A not-so-happy look back at some of the days when England outgunned Ireland in the Six Nations.

GIVEN THE STRENGTH of the rivalry and the historic moments we’ve all been privileged to witness, it can be easy to forget some of the heartbreak that the old enemy have inflicted on the Irish over the years.

With this weekend’s crucial Six Nations tie almost upon us, we take a look back at some of the worst moments — from an Irish point of view, of course! — in the long and detailed history between Ireland and England in the competition.

England 42 Ireland 6 — Lansdowne Road, 30 March, 2003

With both sides vying for the illustrious Grand Slam, England produced one of the most ruthless displays in the history of this long rivalry.

Led by their mercurial captain Martin Johnson, the English set the tone before a tackle was made by standing on the Irish side of the red carpet, forcing Ireland to line up on the grass of Lansdowne Road and seriously ruffling their feathers.

This led to president Mary McAleese having to walk on the sod and was viewed as the height of disrespect, but love them or hate them, one had to respect England’s tactics and their statement of intent.

When the action commenced, there was only one winner. England produced probably their best ever performance under Clive Woodward, righting some wrongs for near misses from previous seasons with a clinical performance en route to World Cup victory later that year.

Mark Conroy / YouTube

England 33 Ireland 10 — Twickenham, 15 March, 2008

After England’s embarrassing loss to their neighbours in the ground-breaking Croke Park clash the previous year, Brian Ashton’s troops were in search of redemption and they didn’t disappoint.

In what was Eddie O’Sullivan’s last game in charge of Ireland, England completed a remarkable 53-point turnaround from 12 months before, ending an Irish dominance which had resulted in four consecutive Six Nations wins.

The ferocity of the English tackling left Ireland dumbstruck, while out-half Danny Cipriani put on a clinic, leading many to believe he was heir apparent to the great Jonny Wilkinson in what was a black day for Irish rugby.

Ruddy Darter / YouTube

England 13 Ireland 10 — Twickenham, 22 February, 2014

Joe Schmidt’s side are aiming for their tenth successive win this weekend but there’s also a major score to settle against an English side who spoiled the party in Twickenham a year ago.

Brian O’Driscoll was winning his 139th cap, equalling George Gregan’s record, and Ireland were aiming for the Grand Slam, but Stuart Lancaster’s team would not be denied in a bruising encounter.

Rob Kearney’s try helped Ireland to a 10-3 lead after 49 minutes, but Danny Care responded for England and, despite a scoreless last quarter, they broke Irish hearts with a courageous display.

England looked likely to go on and win the Six Nations title, but the Irish had the last laugh. It was a case of long-term gain for short-term pain, as Ireland pipped their old rivals when they prevailed after some heroics in their final game in Paris.

RBS 6 Nations / YouTube

England 30 Ireland 9 — Twickenham, 17 March, 2012

The English forwards put their counterparts to the sword, dismantling the Irish scrum for 80 minutes in what was a long St Patrick’s afternoon for Irish fans.

Owen Farrell kicked six penalties, resulting from dominance at the scrum, and fittingly the English were awarded a penalty try as the Irish forwards just could not cope with an inspired England pack.

Ireland had beaten England in seven of their last eight meetings, but in the absence of Brian O’Driscoll, the Irish finished a dire season with a truly dire display.

RBS 6 Nations / YouTube

England 46 Ireland 6 — Lansdowne Road, 15 February, 1997

A disastrous campaign for the Brian Ashton-led Irish was highlighted by a thumping 40-point defeat to the English on home soil, the biggest ever margin of victory between the two sides.

Despite a thrilling one-point victory away to the Welsh in the second week of fixtures, Ireland endured a St Valentine’s Day massacre of epic proportions, with Eric Elwood’s pair of penalties their only scores on the day.

Ireland received the Five Nations wooden spoon after finishing bottom of the table on the back of this meek display, as the English completely blew them out of the water in a performance best confined to the darkest corner of Irish history.

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