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    Pre Match Press.....Sunday

    All Contributions Gratefully Accepted......

    #2

    <h1> Claws out as the big beasts collide </h1>
    @@@@SPAN>By Paul Ackford, Sunday Telegraph@@@@/SPAN>
    <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN>Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">11:05pm GMT@@@@/SPAN>10/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>


    Comment on this story
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    <t></t><table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td colspan="1" align="left">In pics: Week two action | Weekend team details</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td colspan="1" align="left">RuckU audio: Will Carling, Ieuan Evans and Zinzan Brooke</td></tr></t></table>

    At
    last, a game to justify the hype. For all the superlatives (quite
    rightly) that accompanied Jonny's heroics against Scotland, and all the
    plaudits (quite wrongly) directed at Sunday's match between Wales and
    Ireland (loads of energy from the Welsh but very little purpose), there
    is a sense that only the encounter this afternoon between Ireland and
    France really matters. The skirmishing of the first week is over:
    Scotland, Wales and Italy brought firmly down to earth. Today is when
    the big beasts begin to prowl, the moment when this season's<t></t><table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="207"><t><tr><td rowspan="2" width="8"></td><td width="199"><center></center></td></tr><tr><td><center>Centre of attention: Sebastien Chabal is in prime form for France </center></td></tr></t></table>

    Six Nations starts to get serious. Lovely.

    And,
    on the evidence of last week's joustings, France have to start as
    slight favourites. French coach Bernard Laporte did what no one
    believed he could do against Italy, namely, produce a half-back
    partnership of Pierre Mignoni and David Skrela that was authoritative
    and dangerous and ensure that the beast they call Sebastien Chabal was
    as influential for France as he is for his club Sale.

    Laporte's
    strategic and tactical machinations are crucial because his tinkerings
    will dictate whether France get anywhere near their true potential.
    France have always had the talent. That's a given. Their recent
    struggle has involved expressing that flair in the context of
    international rugby which increasingly rewards order and structure and
    discipline.

    That dynamic will be evident again
    against Ireland and will be centred mainly on the half-backs and
    Yannick Jauzion in the centre. The reason why Jauzion is celebrated
    around the rugby world is that

    Comment


      #3
      <h2 ="clear">Ireland's 'Colosseum' awaits France</h2>

      <h3>Saturday 10th February 2007</h3>

      <div ="story">



      <h2>Eddie O'Sullivan: Master of a new Colosseum...</h2>



      </div>


      @@@@SPAN id="intelliTXT">Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has challenged his players to turn Croke Park into a "colosseum" that intimidates the opposition.



      The stadium will host its first rugby international on Sunday when
      Ireland meet France in a potentially epic clash that will shape the Six
      Nations title race.



      With double the capacity of Lansdowne Road, which has been closed
      for redevelopment, O'Sullivan is sure the Gaelic Athletic
      Association-owned venue will prove inspirational.



      He said: "Playing at Croke Park will be a big boost because there
      will be a lot of excitement, a lot of expectation and a lot of hype
      around.



      "We've always had that at Lansdowne Road but there's that bit extra edge there this weekend.



      "It's the first rugby game at Croke Park and that will heighten the
      intensity. There will be 82,300 voices, most of them cheering for
      Ireland for a change.



      "Usually, when we go to the big stadiums in Paris or London most of the crowd are cheering for the opposition.



      "We also saw that in Cardiff last weekend. Cardiff has become a
      very difficult place to go and win because of the intensity that the
      crowd bring to the game.



      "I hope that we'll create our own little colosseum in Croke Park. That will help us to increase the pressure on the opposition.



      "Maybe they'll become a little bit intimidated, which can happen when you're away from home against a big crowd.



      "That's the type of atmosphere and support we want, that surge of
      energy that comes from the crowd and that can push the team on."



      The Six Nations will benefit enormously from the addition of Croke
      Park to its list of venues, but concerns have been raised over the
      standard of the pitch.



      However, O'Sullivan said: "We're absolutely fine with the pitch.
      We've heard a lot of rumour and speculation but we're delighted with
      it.



      "We've been on it twice. It's a very good pitch because it's a very firm pitch, so it's a fast track.



      "It's a big surface, a huge area. Just getting our bearings when
      you plop a rugby pitch into the middle of Croke Park, that's the thing,
      you know.



      "But we've had plenty of experience in that area, like in the Subiaco Oval in Australia, so I don't think it's a major problem."



      Munster lock Paul O'Connell will captain Ireland following Brian O'Driscoll's withdrawal because of a hamstring strain.@@@@/SPAN>

      Comment


        #4
        We'll always be emotional but never unprepared</font>Thomas Castaignède
        </font>Saturday February 10, 2007
        </font>

        Guardian</font>As
        a team we can feel the World Cup getting closer. You just have to watch
        the scrummaging sessions between the pack that's starting and the
        forwards on the bench or those in the 18 who aren't involved. It's not
        far below match standard. The onset of the World Cup can be felt in the
        way things are run at Marcoussis - the way we deal with the press has
        changed, say, and is now a bit more professional - and it's just one
        example of the general trend: nothing is left to chance any more.</font>

        If
        anyone has a tiny physical problem, the medical examinations are done
        in-depth. We've begun our physical preparation for the World Cup,
        working on areas which each of us needs to look at. We're doing video
        work on the other teams, but à la française - we need to know what the
        opposition does, but it's up to us to impose our game rather than spend
        hours slavishly observing them.</font>

        Gradually
        the group is coming together. I don't like it when people talk about
        the French being casual and inconsistent. We have a slightly different
        attitude in that we like a laugh or two after training, we like to bung
        the ball about before, get a pass or two, but there's not a lot of
        joking when we are in the thick of it. We live on our emotions, so we
        like to smile, that's all.</font>

        Even
        if we keep saying that this tournament is not the most important target
        of the year, this particular match could be very significant in the
        long run. Both ourselves and the Irish need to get a psychological
        advantage before we meet again the pool stage of the World Cup.</font>

        Last
        year we were stung by the Irish. We put in a fabulous first half and
        then allowed them to come back so strongly that they almost won. We
        played Argentina, also in Pool D, in the autumn having just been "All
        Black-ed" twice, and the Pumas came back in the final 20 minutes and
        came close to stealing that Test. We have to learn to kill off sides
        like Ireland and Argentina, away from home and at home.</font>

        I
        was there the last time Ireland beat France, on the bench at Lansdowne
        Road during the 2003 Six Nations. As I recall, it wasn't a great game,
        perhaps due to the weather, and neither team took all its chances, so
        it was tight right down to the wire. This time I'd say we have a slight
        advantage in the tight five, and there is the great Croke Park unknown:
        will the hype get to the Irish?</font>

        In
        terms of where France stand compared with our World Cup ambitions, we
        will have to wait until the end of the tournament to draw any
        conclusions. I just hope that tomorrow we can reap some benefit from
        the last two weeks' hard work in what could be France's most important
        game between now and the World Cup opener against Argentina on
        September 7.</font>

        Comment


          #5
          Ireland have new Boss but will miss O'Driscoll</font>Paul Rees
          </font>Saturday February 10, 2007
          </font>

          Guardian</font>Ireland
          have found it difficult enough to beat France in the past 25 years and
          tomorrow they must try to end a run of four successive defeats by Les
          Bleus without their captain, Brian O'Driscoll, and the scrum-half Peter
          Stringer, both casualties of last Sunday's victory over Wales.</font>

          O'Driscoll
          felt a pull in his hamstring on the hour but stayed on the field for
          another 16 minutes, until the match was effectively won, before
          hobbling off with the added complication of a thigh strain. Stringer,
          targeted all afternoon by the Welsh back row, damaged a bone in his
          hand and was still unable to handle the ball properly in training
          yesterday.</font>

          Ireland
          had intended to give O'Driscoll until this afternoon to prove his
          fitness but conceded yesterday that time was his enemy. Shane Horgan
          will move to inside-centre from the wing, where Geordan Murphy steps
          in, with Gordon D'Arcy moving out to O'Driscoll's position. Isaac Boss
          replaces Stringer for his first Six Nations start, with Wasps' Eoin
          Reddan coming on to the bench.</font>

          "Brian
          was close to being fit but felt a tightening of his hamstring. It was a
          difficult decision emotionally to rule him out but it was an easy one
          from a practical point of view," said the Ireland coach, Eddie
          O'Sullivan. "Isaac Boss will be different to Stringer as he plays a
          sniping game, and after his displays for us last autumn I have no
          worries about him."</font>

          The
          success in Cardiff heightened expectation that Ireland, who play both
          France and England at Croke Park, were on their way to their first
          grand slam since 1948, or at least their first title for 22 years, but
          not only have they lost two key, experienced players but Horgan
          returned only this week from a knee injury and D'Arcy sustained a groin
          strain in the opening minutes against Wales.</font>

          Ireland's
          performances last autumn gave reasons for optimism but they have beaten
          France only three times since 1983 and they have a worse record, in
          percentage terms, against them than against the other members of the
          old Five Nations.</font>

          Lost
          amid the France coach Bernard Laporte's obsession with the World Cup,
          which his country will host this year, is his side's record in the Six
          Nations since the last World Cup: 14 wins in 16 matches, with the two
          defeats, at home to Wales in 2005 and in Scotland last year, largely
          self-inflicted. Only if statistics lie should Ireland be favourites
          tomorrow.</font>

          Home
          advantage will be offset by the fact that Ireland, like France, are
          playing at Croke Park for the first time. Their outside-half, Ronan
          O'Gara, was the master of every caprice of the swirling wind at
          Lansdowne Road but, even though the pitch dimensions will largely be
          the same, the extra width needed for Gaelic games will mean a greater
          expanse of green and make it harder to judge line-kicks.</font>

          Laporte
          believes that the victors tomorrow will be tournament favourites, even
          if he mistakenly believes it is the first of three home matches for
          Ireland. "They have not beaten us for four years but they will give us
          a better idea of where we are after last November's two defeats to New
          Zealand than Ita

          Comment


            #6


            Shaun Edwards....The Guardian...




            Rewind four years. The same city but a different stadium. England
            beat Ireland 42-6 at Lansdowne Road and picked up their only grand slam
            under Clive Woodward. It was a winner-takes-all showdown which kept
            England on the road to becoming world champions. The Wellington and
            Melbourne victories that summer may have been more eye-catching but it
            was Dublin which showed that England had what was needed to win big
            matches on the road.



            On Sunday Ireland are at home again but their World Cup ambitions
            are under the microscope. Beat France and there won't be any argument
            about who are the best side in the northern hemisphere, for now, and it
            will show who are shaping up better with the World Cup only seven
            months away.



            Bernard Laporte has been saying for weeks that this is the Six
            Nations game that matters most, yet France seem still to be
            experimenting, making five changes from the team who won in Rome last
            Saturday - only two of them enforced by injury - and promoting three
            players from the bench.



            Sylvain Marconnet replaces the remarkable Olivier Milloud, the
            loose-head prop who unhinged the Italian scrum in the first 10 minutes
            at the Stadio Flaminio last weekend, Pascal Pape links up with his
            Castres team-mate Lionel Nallet in the second row and Imanol
            Harinordoquy replaces Julien Bonnaire.



            Starting Milloud from the bench is a gamble if France intend
            targeting Ireland's front row, as they must having seen what Leicester
            did to Munster, but the Nallet-Pape partnership in the second row makes
            sense. They went well together against Wasps in both our Heineken Cup
            pool matches and, with Fabien Pelous looking a fading force, the
            club-and-country partnership is probably the best option to take on the
            two Munstermen, Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan. Munster have
            the best lineout in Ireland but the stats confirm that Castres are tops
            in France.



            Harinordoquy, once an ever-present in the France team, will give the
            back row a better balance - and another lineout option - now that
            Laporte finally seems to be playing the ball-carrying Sébastien Chabal
            in the correct position at No8, alongside the fetcher-in-chief and dog
            on the floor Serge Betsen.



            Because of Ireland's injuries we won't know their line-up until
            tomorrow but whereas Brian O'Driscoll is obviously irreplaceable in any
            team - it would be great to see him facing Yannick Jauzion - I have a
            feeling that the Kiwi-turned-Ulsterman Isaac Boss might make more of an
            impact than Peter Stringer when it comes to dealing with France's
            latest find at scrum-half, Pierre Mignoni.



            It was no surprise that the speedy Clermont-Auvergne No9 went well
            in Rome - we once tried to sign him - but the more physical presence of
            Boss may be more of a handful than the Kiwi-turned-Italian Paul
            Griffen. The fly-half David Skrela will also find he has much less time
            to weave his patterns on the game and more tackles to make.



            However, it will be close, possibly coming down to the goalkickers,
            and in such circumstances the little things will come into play - and
            they are stacked on Ireland's side.



            Eddie O'Sullivan has done well in getting the New Zealand referee
            Steve Walsh to recant after his injudicious remarks about Ireland
            slowing play at the breakdown in Cardiff last Sunday. Walsh was less
            than clever in making his thoughts known to the assistant Wales coach
            Nigel Davies, so the Irish coach had all the moral high ground when he
            asked Walsh for a chat and the retreat was inevitable.



            Then there is the Croke Park factor. After nearly 130 years of rugby
            at Lansdowne Road, which has been a bit threadbare for as long as I can
            remember, the Gaelic Athletic Association stadium is bound to lift
            Ireland. It holds more than 80,000 compared with less than 50,000 and
            has a special place at the heart of Irish sport.</p

            Comment


              #7

              <div>@@@@SPAN> From @@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN>The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></div><div><!- this will be populated from CMS ->
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              <!- For Travel Search -><!- Modified key value pair for tiles -><no>
              <!- END: Module - Advert:Top -></no></div><div> February 11, 2007
              </div><h1>How they line up at Croke Park</h1><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

              <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
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              @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
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              Full-back

              Girvan Dempsey v Clement Poitrenaud


              Comparisons might be invidious if only France had a structure to make anything
              of Poitrenaud’s ? ne talents. Dempsey is a rather unsteady Eddie
              <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."->

              Wing

              Geordan Murphy v Christophe Dominici


              Murphy will be bursting to dip into his box of tricks now that he is in the
              starting XV. All depends here on whether Dominici is in the zone, rather
              than in the clouds


              Outside-centre

              Gordon D’Arcy v David Marty


              D’Arcy moves outwards but many insist inside-centre is his best position and
              he will need time to gel. Marty may be third choice, but he is a genuine
              Test-class talent


              Inside-centre

              Shane Horgan v Yannick Jauzion


              Horgan is back uncannily early from injury and is pitched into the key
              inside-centre position against the supreme practitioner. We’ll know how ? t
              he is by the end


              Wing

              Denis Hickie v Vincent Clerc


              Doubtful if the game will be won out wide, but Skrela will be more likely than
              the inept Welsh to test Hickie under the high ball. Clerc is on form, but
              will he get the ball?


              Fly-half

              Ronan O’Gara v David Skrela


              It is career day for Skrela. He was composed in Rome, but a raucous Croke Park
              will be worlds apart. O’Gara ? nished in credit after a sticky start in
              Cardiff


              Scrum-half

              Isaac Boss v Pierre Mignoni


              Mignoni advanced in Rome. Boss, at last, gets a chance to show that he has a
              better all-round game than the drastically limited Stringer, who was poor in
              Cardiff


              Prop

              Marcus Horan v Pieter de Villiers


              The Irishman may never be of real class, the Frenchman was once, but no
              longer. Both men, in essence, are keeping a jersey warm for the next
              incumbent


              Hooker

              Rory Best v Raphaël Ibanez


              Best was by no means a deadeye with his throwing against Wales. The charming
              and yet ? erce Ibanez is in the form of his life for Wasps and for France


              Prop

              John Hayes v Sylvain Marconnet


              All depends if the referee understands the scrum. The whistler for the
              Wales-Ireland game operated as if it was all new to him. Hayes could
              struggle in this one



              Second-row

              Donncha O’Callaghan v Lionel Nallet


              The fervour and mobility of the splendid O’Callaghan are almost guaranteed.
              The Castres-based Frenchman is only really out of the middle drawer of Test
              locks


              Second-row

              Paul O’Connell v Pascal Pape


              All uncannily quiet from O’Connell of late. Surely,

              Comment


                #8


                <div>@@@@SPAN> From @@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN>The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></div><div><!- this will be populated from CMS ->
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                <!- For Travel Search -><!- Modified key value pair for tiles ->
                <no><!- END: Module - Advert:Top -></no></div><div> February 11, 2007
                </div><h1>No hiding place</h1><h2>Today’s game in Dublinis so full of selectorial and emotional questions that it will define both teams’ seasons</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

                <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
                generated if we are coming from a secti&#111;n or topic -><!- Print Author name associated with the article -><div id="main-article"><div><!- Print Author name from By Line associated with the article ->@@@@SPAN>@@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN> Stephen Jones
                @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
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                The sociological significance and the historical resonance of Ireland’s move
                to Croke Park may be profound, but the team and its coaches will be
                delighted if they can contemplate those weighty issues in an afterglow of
                victory over France in the towering Gaelic games arena today. And with the
                realisation that they can win big matches without Brian O’Driscoll.



                O’Driscoll is among the best backs in the world. He is also one of the better
                captains, probably among the top 20 flankers, and is certainly the sport’s
                leading messiah. Big boots to fill, those. I am among those who discern far
                more of a fool’s paradise than a real revival in the French win in Rome last
                weekend, but the reshuffling that Ireland have to bring off in their
                midfield, and in their hearts and minds, is immense.



                No doubt it will be a magnificent occasion, and it may also now be very close.
                And yet such is the dynamic of this RBS Six Nations Championship that if
                Ireland win, the occasion will suddenly be dwarfed. For many reasons, an
                Irish victory today will probably make the match in a fortnight at Croke
                Park against England the biggest in their history, with as many locked out
                as crammed in. A French win today would at least give those maddening
                masters of inconsistency a fighting chance of avoiding humiliation in their
                own World Cup later in the year.



                In the absence of O’Driscoll, the keys to the game are now passed inside to
                Ronan O’Gara. He is appointed Mother Hen. Ireland’s fly-half has to look
                after a newish man inside him in Isaac Boss, in for the injured Peter
                Stringer, although those who witnessed Stringer’s struggles last Sunday in
                Cardiff, while admitting his absence is a blow, will be undecided as to
                which side is suffering the blow. The talented Boss can transform Ireland’s
                operation round the forwards, provided he can take the pressure, and the
                knowledge that in the overloyal world of Eddie O’Sullivan he probably has
                just one chance to dominate.<div><!- ENd attachments of article package -><!- END: Module - M63 - Article Related Package -><!- BEGIN: POLL -><!- END : POLL -><!- BEGIN: DEBATE-><!- END: DEBATE->
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                Yet O’Gara also has to marshal a new midfield, with Shane Horgan at
                inside-centre and Gordon D’Arcy at outside-centre both moving from their
                natural positions, learning new angles and calls and responsibilities. If
                O’Gara is successful in bringing order to potential chaos, then you feel
                that Ireland will win; that up front their proud and tenacious forwards —
                with Paul O’Connell now installed as captain and due a mighty game —

                Comment


                  #9

                  <div>@@@@SPAN> From @@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN>The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></div><div><!- this will be populated from CMS ->
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                  <no><!- END: Module - Advert:Top -></no></div><div> February 11, 2007
                  </div><h1>Ghosts of Croker</h1><h2>Croke
                  Park hosts its first rugby match today, but the visit of England in a
                  fortnight, and the reaction among the nationalist community to it, show
                  how much Ireland has changed in recent years</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

                  <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
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                  @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
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                  Bernard Laporte, the France coach, was asked a question about the stadium. As
                  is often his way when expressing a considered opinion, Laporte touched the
                  frame of his small, moon-shaped glasses with his right hand before speaking.
                  “The game,” he said, “will be played in a stadium where the Irish rugby team
                  wasn’t allowed to play because of internal problems.”



                  And Noah once stood at the window of his Ark, saying it looked like rain.



                  Internal problems? Oliver Hughes could write the history. He is a 57-year-old
                  republican from south Derry, vice-chairman of the Wolfe Tones GAA club in
                  Bellaghy and first-hand witness to many of the issues that make today’s game
                  at Croke Park a momentous occasion for Ireland. Historic this afternoon and
                  something far, far greater when England come 13 days from now.



                  At the time soccer and rugby internationals became a possibility at Croke
                  Park, Hughes and his club were against. “I don’t know if there was any need
                  for a debate at our club. We knew how we felt. Our two delegates were
                  appointed to go to the meeting and told to vote ‘no’. We looked on soccer as
                  being the sport of the unionist population, and rugby as well, and you
                  couldn’t help bringing politics into it.
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                  Bellaghy is a nationalist village with a population of about 2,000 people. Its
                  gaelic games club is vibrant, its team one of the best in Ireland, and the
                  club is central to the everyday life of its community. In its way it is as
                  telling a commentary on the strength of the amateur Gaelic Athletic
                  Association (GAA) as the magnificent Croke Park. But like the GAA itself,
                  the Bellaghy club comes with a history.



                  Sadly in Bellaghy’s case, the graveyard is an appropriate starting point. It
                  is the place to which Hughes often returns; the Tarmacked paths, the neatly
                  kept plots and uniform headstones remind him of the solemnity of death and
                  the sacredness of life. Everyone here, he says, had their life, their story
                  and it didn’t matter that a man reached the age of 92 or that someone else
                  died at 89, all deaths are lamented.



                  He points to the names — Diamond, McErlean, Scullion, Doherty, Cassidy —
                  and says there was never a Bellaghy team that didn’t have its share of those
                  families. Seven of those buried here lost their lives in the war that
                  afflicted this part of Ireland for more than 25 years. There lies Colum
                  McCartney, shot dead near the border as he made his way home from a match in
                  Crok

                  Comment


                    #10

                    <h1>Leamy returning to home of his heroes</h1><h2>Ireland’s No 8 will be high on emotion as he runs on to Croke Park, where his boyhood idols played a different game</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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                    DENIS LEAMY remembers the elation of a victory at Croke Park — at the age of
                    eight watching his Tipperary hurling heroes win the All-Ireland final in
                    1989. He can still name the team. As a youngster he dreamed of playing
                    there, little knowing he would run on in the rugby jersey of Ireland.



                    “It’s just a place full of passion,” he says. “Even now when I go there and
                    watch Tipp in championship games, it just stirs something up inside of you
                    that probably isn’t stirred up by anything else. It’s very hard to put into
                    words. I get enthralled by just being a fan.



                    “Hurling is the best sport in the world, definitely. I probably got a ball and
                    a stick in my hand before I was able to walk. It was only in my teens that
                    rugby took over. Of course I enjoy playing rugby more now but, to watch,
                    hurling is the best. It’s just so tribal.



                    “What it’s given me is that I have to represent a cause. I don’t think I could
                    ever play for a team that’s just made up of individuals brought together
                    from all over the world, like you sometimes see across the water. I think I
                    have to represent a flag or something. That’s why I love playing for
                    Munster. It’s something I’ve always aspired to do, because it’s an identity.<div><!- ENd attachments of article package -><!- END: Module - M63 - Article Related Package -><!- BEGIN: POLL -><!- END : POLL -><!- BEGIN: DEBATE-><!- END: DEBATE->
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                    Last weekend at the Millennium stadium Leamy showed his prowess when he picked
                    off a high ball near halfway before scattering 19st Ian Gough while barely
                    breaking stride.



                    He has what IRFU fitness director Liam Hennessy calls “phenomenal reactive
                    strength” — explosive zero-to-60 power — that, combined
                    with run-all-day energy, footballing ability and a parish mentality, gives
                    you the sort of rugby player that even the All Blacks rate; after Ireland’s
                    summer tour, the word from the New Zealand coaching staff was that Leamy
                    would push for inclusion in their first-choice back row.



                    By his own admission, his form dipped slightly after the November Tests, in
                    part due to illness. His mood darkens at the mention of Leicester and he
                    admits he sought reassuring words before last weekend’s trip to Cardiff.
                    They worked.



                    Time and again, he hauled Ireland over the gain-line off wheeled scrums,
                    whereas opposite number Ryan Jones was driven back. There were also four
                    typical poaches and numerous other acts of scavenging.



                    He didn’t sleep soundly that evening, however. An old stud wound in his side
                    had become infected and he woke at around 3.30am in agony. He was having the
                    abscess lanced in a Cardiff hospital by 5am. When the rest of the team were
                    flying home that morning, he was recovering in bed. All week the state of
                    the wound has been the source of grisly curiosity among his teammates.



                    Spending the week on antibi-otic

                    Comment


                      #11
                      <h1 ="ing">Back to the front</h1><h2 ="sub-ing padding-top-5 padding-bottom-15">Gordon D’Arcy’s efforts as an auxillary forward will be key today</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

                      <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
                      generated if we are coming from a secti&#111;n or topic -><!- Print Author name associated with the article -><div id="main-article"><div ="article-author"><!- Print Author name from By Line associated with the article ->@@@@SPAN ="small">@@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN ="byline"> Stuart Barnes
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                      Hands in the contact area, torsos flopped over the tackled man like objects in
                      a Salvador Dali painting and defenders wrapped up as question marks around
                      the ball-carrier . . . you do what you have to do to slow down or steal the
                      opposition ball and no team does it better than Ireland, and no Irishman has
                      the limpet tenacity of Brian O’Driscoll.



                      The world’s outstanding centre, O’Driscoll’s defensive qualities are every bit
                      as important to his team as his low-slung swivel-hipped breaks, his one
                      handed offloads in the tackle and that priceless knack of scoring tries when
                      his team most needs them. He could be as badly missed by Ireland this
                      afternoon as a certain Mr Wilkinson had been for years by England.



                      Both are truly talismanic in the sense that their presence convinces teammates
                      that something magic is working in their favour. It is an ingredient that
                      goes way beyond the pure facts of their performance. This intangible quality
                      was what the England fly-half delivered against Scotland and what O’Driscoll
                      usually offers Ireland, that and an incredible retreating game which
                      eclipses the quality of his running game.
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                      His finish against Wales last Sunday was world class — for a wing, let alone a
                      centre — but it is phenomenal workrate and efficiency at the breakdown
                      that Ireland will miss as much as the attacking inspiration this afternoon.
                      If he finishes like a wing, he scrambles at the breakdown like Richie McCaw.
                      To be in the same breath as the world’s leading openside is quite some
                      compliment for any flanker on this planet, but for a centre to be in the
                      same defensive league is astonishing; astonishing for your run-of-the-mill
                      world-class back. But O’Driscoll is more than run-of-the-mill world class,
                      he is once-in-a-generation great. France will feel as if Ireland have lost
                      three men and Ireland might, too. This is an immense loss for the home team.

                      Technically, Ireland’s captain has been a little below his best and in Ireland
                      a media that is not historically shy of knocking him reckon his fellow
                      gravity-defying midfield partner, Gordon D’Arcy, is actually the superior
                      centre.



                      D’Arcy was the deserved man of the match against Wales, although it was
                      O’Driscoll’s rugged finish that checked Wales when they were threatening to
                      gain complete momentum. Both men are fiendishly difficult to lock up for the
                      course of 80 minutes. Both have a bolt of acceleration and gentle hands in
                      the tackle. Both are horrendous prospects to face when they are in the mood
                      to attack.



                      But both men, more significantly, are even more of a nightmare for opposition
                      attacks because, while they may have the occasional subdued afternoon on the
                      front foot, they are rarely anything other than dominant on the back foot.
                      D’Arcy is not as good as his captain as a ball snatcher at the breakdown,
                      but he is ju

                      Comment


                        #12

                        [QUOTE=Fly_caster]
                        <div>@@@@SPAN> From @@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN>The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></div><div><!- this will be populated from CMS ->
                        <!- BEGIN: Module - Advert:Top ->







                        <!- For Travel Search -><!- Modified key value pair for tiles ->
                        <no><!- END: Module - Advert:Top -></no></div><div> February 11, 2007
                        </div><h1>Ghosts of Croker</h1><h2>Croke
                        Park hosts its first rugby match today, but the visit of England in a
                        fortnight, and the reaction among the nationalist community to it, show
                        how much Ireland has changed in recent years</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

                        <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
                        generated if we are coming from a secti&#111;n or topic -><!- Print Author name associated with the article -><div id="main-article"><div><!- Print Author name from By Line associated with the article ->@@@@SPAN>@@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN> David Walsh
                        @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
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                        Bernard Laporte, the France coach, was asked a question about the stadium. As
                        is often his way when expressing a considered opinion, Laporte touched the
                        frame of his small, moon-shaped glasses with his right hand before speaking.
                        “The game,” he said, “will be played in a stadium where the Irish rugby team
                        wasn’t allowed to play because of internal problems.”



                        And Noah once stood at the window of his Ark, saying it looked like rain.



                        Internal problems? Oliver Hughes could write the history. He is a 57-year-old
                        republican from south Derry, vice-chairman of the Wolfe Tones GAA club in
                        Bellaghy and first-hand witness to many of the issues that make today’s game
                        at Croke Park a momentous occasion for Ireland. Historic this afternoon and
                        something far, far greater when England come 13 days from now.



                        At the time soccer and rugby internationals became a possibility at Croke
                        Park, Hughes and his club were against. “I don’t know if there was any need
                        for a debate at our club. We knew how we felt. Our two delegates were
                        appointed to go to the meeting and told to vote ‘no’. We looked on soccer as
                        being the sport of the unionist population, and rugby as well, and you
                        couldn’t help bringing politics into it.
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                        Bellaghy is a nationalist village with a population of about 2,000 people. Its
                        gaelic games club is vibrant, its team one of the best in Ireland, and the
                        club is central to the everyday life of its community. In its way it is as
                        telling a commentary on the strength of the amateur Gaelic Athletic
                        Association (GAA) as the magnificent Croke Park. But like the GAA itself,
                        the Bellaghy club comes with a history.



                        Sadly in Bellaghy’s case, the graveyard is an appropriate starting point. It
                        is the place to which Hughes often returns; the Tarmacked paths, the neatly
                        kept plots and uniform headstones remind him of the solemnity of death and
                        the sacredness of life. Everyone here, he says, had their life, their story
                        and it didn’t matter that a man reached the age of 92 or that someone else
                        died at 89, all deaths are lamented.



                        He points to the names — Diamond, McErlean, Scullion, Doherty, Cassidy —
                        and says there was never a Bellaghy team that didn’t have its share of those
                        families. Seven of those buried here lost their lives in the war that
                        afflicted this part of Ireland for more than 25 years. There lies Colum
                        McCartney, shot dead near the border as he made his way home fr

                        Comment


                          #13

                          Already posted two articles above DerG ![img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]

                          Comment


                            #14

                            'We need to stop French at source'</font>



                            Sunday February 11th 2007</font>



                            QUESTIONS &amp; ANSWERS DONNCHA O'CALLAGHAN WITH BRENDAN FANNING </font>



                            SIX Years after your Heineken Cup debut for Munster you're now a
                            regular starter for Ireland. What has the journey been like, and did
                            you ever doubt you would arrive? </font>


                            Not
                            really. Coming from school I got straight into the professional
                            mindset. I didn't think about a trade or anything - rugby was how I was
                            going to earn a living. I don't mind saying it, but you know when
                            you're young and you want to play for Ireland, and there's that sort of
                            buzz, and you're running home from training and watching Five Nations
                            all day? It was a great thing and I never kind of doubted it, and it
                            broke into two things: the amateur part of it, playing for your
                            country; and the professional side that wants to make a living out of
                            it. It's been great. </font>


                            Was there a point last week when you thought you were on your way to the bin? </font>


                            There
                            was, when the ref called me out with Drico. When you're playing in
                            these intimidating grounds you know that supporters can influence
                            things just with the volume. And it was pretty loud around the ground
                            due to that penalty. I've watched it since and it was silly, there was
                            no threat to our defensive line and it probably wasn't necessary, but
                            it was the first one I'd given away. Then Stephen Jones comes running
                            over saying: 'It's his second time!' which it wasn't. </font>



                            It's just going through your head that you don't want to leave the
                            pitch, that it would have been a tough call. It's a bit like standing
                            outside the headmaster's office. But we do an awful lot of work on
                            those referees and our interpretation of him was: if he's not talking
                            to you, keep poaching for that ball. And I was hearing nothing, so I
                            thought there was a chance of coming up with it. That's the thing:
                            everyone goes on about that penalty, but nobody goes on about the three
                            poaches you made that day. </font>


                            It was helpful having Drico there as well. I felt he was influential, that he was backing me. </font>


                            What
                            was the reaction to your Captain Underpants routine against Cardiff in
                            the Heineken Cup? Have you been sledged over it since? </font>


                            I
                            haven't heard the end of it and to be honest it's something I really
                            regret. I wish it had never happened. Everybody knows me for being
                            outgoing and stuff like that, but it's only when you watch it back that
                            you see how embarrassing it was. I was disappointed it happened, and
                            Deccie had to apologise on behalf of all the management, and things
                            weren't right. </font>



                            But at the time I was faced with two options: stay or leave the pitch
                            and be down a man? You've got to understand like, I've played with
                            Paulie (O'Connell) when he's had two teeth knocked out of the front of
                            his mouth and he played on. So I didn't think it was acceptable for me
                            to go off. </font>



                            People think I'm a messer and a joker, but my family

                            Comment


                              #15

                              A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE IRISH RUGBY SQUAD</font>



                              Sunday February 11th 2007</font>




                              FROM the end of January to St Patrick's Day, anywhere between 22 and 34
                              professional rugby players spend the best part of eight weeks in camp,
                              preparing for and playing in the Six Nations Championship, the biggest
                              annual rugby competition in the world. </font>



                              In addition to the players there is a support team of management and
                              medical personnel numbering 13. Most of their time is mapped out for
                              them. </font>


                              Here is a typical day in the life. </font>



                              8.0
                              Wake-up call for management </font>



                              8.30

                              Wake-up call for players. All players must drop off urine samples in
                              medical room en route to breakfast. Samples are tested for hydration
                              levels which is especially important the day before a match. If, for
                              example, a player was moderately dehydrated he would be told to get
                              700mls of water as well as a dioralyte, which is a mineral, potassium
                              and sodium electrolyte replacement. </font>



                              8.0-9.0

                              Players must weigh in before breakfast. All weights are monitored on a
                              daily basis, and even a slight fluctuation might indicate that the
                              player was training too hard, wasn't sufficiently hydrated or might be
                              coming down with some ailment. Because it's done every day, the fitness
                              staff know all the weights off by heart and will spot something before
                              it becomes an issue. </font>



                              Breakfast consists of a bowl of fruit, porridge with honey, followed by
                              four or five poached eggs with brown toast. Most would follow that with
                              yoghurt, a banana and an isotonic drink to take with them. Last week,
                              at one sitting, Paul O'Connell put away six Weetabix after his fruit -
                              before his eggs - and also had some lean turkey rashers and baked
                              beans. "They eat well in the morning," says fitness coach Mike McGurn. </font>



                              8.45-9.15
                              Those who need to be strapped for training session attend physios Cameron Steele and Brian Green. </font>



                              9.30

                              Squad assembles in team room before departure for training. Their exact
                              training kit will have been specified on a daily schedule left under
                              each door the previous night. Players, coaches and medics have to
                              follow a separate dress code. </font>



                              10.0

                              Training Session. Early in the week the session would be broken into
                              the following components: Warm-up/skills/flexibility (20 mins);
                              Continuity work (30 mins); Defence (25 mins); Unit work - set-pieces
                              and set-plays (30 mins). The components will vary the closer they get
                              to match day. </font>



                              At pitch-side there is a table laden with snacks and drinks, eg Kellogs
                              Nutri Grain bars and recovery shakes. Players will grab some of these
                              on the way to the bus. </font>



                              12.15
                              Arrive back to team hotel and straight into pool for recovery session, followed by cold baths - </font>


                              <font color="#000000" f

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