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No talk of rap battles this year as Ireland prepare for battle at Twickenham

The mood in the Ireland camp is not as jocular as 2013 but that is no bad thing.

Ireland players are put through their paces at Carton House.
Ireland players are put through their paces at Carton House.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE MOOD IN Ireland camp last season, ahead of the England clash, was so buoyant that Declan Kidney found himself talking about ‘smoothies in the squad’ and rap-offs.

Having defeated Wales in their Six Nations opener, at the Millennium Stadium, Ireland set their sights on Stuart Lancaster’s England and allowed themselves to dream of Grand Slams. The English came to Dublin last February and did a number on their hosts. As Rory Best remarked on Monday, when you lose to a home nation you lose a Triple Crown and a Grand Slam in the process.

So, when Tuesday talk turned to Ireland ending a five-year wait for silverware, players Conor Murray and Dave Kearney were quick to shut it down. While Murray toyed with the notion, Kearney chased and tackled it with all the eagerness of a man facing off against Alex Cuthbert again.

Even Les Kiss, the bubbliest member of the backroom staff, was not allowing himself to become distracted about trophies or championship challenges. Asked if Ireland could allow themselves to look past a committed 80 minute effort to a Triple Crown, the defence coach remarked that the players see Saturday’s contest as ’80 one-minute games’. He added:

With a team like England, at Twickenham, it’s about the immediate seconds in front of you. We know there is always an outcome in a game and we’re in a tournament where there’s a win, loss or a draw. If we focus on what we need to, the ole’ six inches or two inches in front of you — and the one or two seconds in that moment — if you get most of that right and win those battles, the result mostly looks after itself.

“We are very focused on doing what we have to and we’re very big on making sure people know their jobs.”

The mood in the camp is palpably different this Six Nations. Joe Schmidt has opted for team player Dave Kearney over the tinderstick talent of Simon Zebo. Hard grafters such as Andrew Trimble, Devin Toner and Chris Henry have found a home. Jamie Heaslip is showing more leadership without the captaincy that he did with it last year. No videos of Paddy Jackson singing about tractors have surfaced… yet.

The time for joking, it seems, is over and that is by no means a bad thing. Ireland have followed up the game that shan’t be mentioned with two impressive, clinical, energy-conserving victories. The bench contains young players that have bought into the squad mentality and have improved the team in the final 20 of both Six Nations matches.

Of course, the Irish players are privately yearning for a Triple Crown. In the glib words of Les Kiss, however, there are 80 one-minute games to be won first. If Ireland can win most of them, and look after stoppage time too, there may yet be mighty craic around Carton House in the coming weeks.

Kiss calls on replacements to do ‘the right kind of damage’ on organised England

Brian O’Driscoll sits out Ireland training with bug, must prove fitness on Thursday

 

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Patrick McCarry

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