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Irl. Vs. England...Press Watch...Thursday

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    Irl. Vs. England...Press Watch...Thursday

    @@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;">Hi All,@@@@/SPAN><br style="font-weight: bold;"><br style="font-weight: bold;">@@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;">Will do this daily upto the post match press. I have no access to Irish Times if anyone would like to contribute those and any others, please feel right at home................@@@@/SPAN></font>
    @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>Robinson doubt for Croke Park clash</h2>@@@@SPAN>22/02/2007@@@@/SPAN>

    will head to Dublin with an injury doubt hanging over World Cup winner
    Jason Robinson for the RBS 6 Nations Championship showdown against
    Ireland at Croke Park.

    The Sale Sharks winger suffered a neck
    injury during training in Bath yesterday, prompting a call-up for
    uncapped Harlequins prospect David Strettle.

    Although England
    say 23-year-old Strettle will join up only as "precautionary cover,"
    there are clearly concerns about Robinson, who has already scored three
    tries in this season's tournament.

    He is being treated by
    England medical staff at the world champions' base and his condition
    will be reassessed ahead of departure for Dublin.

    capped 41 times, skippered England on their last Dublin mission two
    years ago in what looked to have been his final Test match before
    coming out of international retirement for this season's tournament.

    the 32-year-old is sidelined, then Brian Ashton would probably promote
    Newcastle back Mathew Tait from replacement duty, although a full Test
    debut for Strettle cannot be ruled out.

    But the loss of Robinson would be keenly felt in such a high-octane game.

    has delivered two powerful displays since returning to the side,
    claiming two scores against Scotland and England's solitary touchdown
    during their 20-7 victory over Italy.

    With Ireland boasting one
    of the most dangerous back divisions in Europe, Robinson's absence
    would be tough to overcome as England prepare for arguably the toughest
    examination of their entire Six Nations campaign.

    An England win
    would probably see them installed as tournament favourites, with fellow
    title challengers France due at Twickenham on March 11, but their
    recent record against the Irish is not good.

    The hosts,
    meanwhile, are hoping to reel off a fourth successive victory in the
    fixture and will be on their guard after losing 17-30 to France on
    their Croke Park bow a fortnight ago.

    England hooker George
    Chuter said: "The whole occasion is going to be against us, and it is
    just important we keep our focus within the tight bubble that is the
    England squad.

    "We need to keep our minds on what we are doing.

    will be one of those days you play rugby for. It is a massive occasion
    against a good team in their own back-yard, and everything is stacked
    against you.

    "We are underdogs, well and truly. There will be
    83,000 people in a fantastic stadium, and you can't ask for any more in
    any sport, let alone my humble sport of rugby union."

    who will pick up his ninth cap in the fixture, said: "Playing for your
    country is the pinnacle of my profession, and it is great to have had
    an extended run in the side.

    "It is a big jump from club rugby
    to the international arena, so I guess I am still finding my feet after
    eight caps. I have been learning and adjusting, and hopefully, I can
    now start to play my real game.

    "I am enjoying the way it is
    going and the way the team is heading. Despite what happened against
    Italy, I still think we are coming together as a team and turning into
    a pretty good unit."@@@@/SPAN>@@@@/SPAN>

    @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>Robinson injury prompts Strettle call-up</h2>@@@@SPAN ="storytime">21/02/2007@@@@/SPAN>

    @@@@SPAN ="story">Uncapped
    Harlequins wing David Strettle has been summoned to join preparations
    for England's RBS 6 Nations showdown with Ireland after Jason Robinson
    suffered a neck injury in training.

    Sale Sharks star Robinson, who has scored three tries in this season's tournament, could be a doubt for the Croke Park clash.

    is being treated by England medical staff at the world champions' Bath
    University base, with his condition to be reassessed tomorrow ahead of
    departure for Dublin.

    Head coach Brian Ashton has called up
    23-year-old Strettle, a key performer in England Saxons' victory over
    Italy A earlier this month, as precautionary cover.

    assistant coach Mike Ford said: "Jason got a bit of a knock and has
    gone off to see the doctor. Hopefully, he will be okay."

    capped 41 times, skippered England on their last Dublin mission two
    years ago, which proved his final Test match before coming out of
    international retirement for this season's Six Nations tournament.

    the 32-year-old is sidelined, then Ashton would probably promote
    Newcastle back Mathew Tait from replacement duty, although a full Test
    debut for Strettle could not be ruled out.

    As Ashton awaited
    developments, news filtered through to the England camp that his fellow
    2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson will miss the title defence in
    France later this year.

    The 47 times-capped Northampton hooker
    will undergo surgery next week on a neck injury which has already ruled
    him out of Six Nations contention.

    Thompson has a disc problem
    in his neck which creates a loss of feeling down one arm. A month ago,
    the Northampton and England medical teams agreed he required an
    eight-week rest from playing and training.

    The plan had been to reassess him after that – but the decision has already been taken that Thompson requires an operation.

    head coach Paul Grayson said: "We are all so disappointed for Steve and
    we will be working hard with him to help his recovery.

    "We look forward to his invaluable support behind the scenes while he recuperates."

    And Leicester's George Chuter, who currently holds the England number two shirt, added: "I hadn't heard about 'Thommo.'

    "I get on very well with him – he is a nice guy who has been a great servant to English rugby."

    has been suffering on-going neck trouble, but took a heavy blow during
    his last game for Northampton – the 17-8 Heineken Cup defeat to
    Biarritz almost four weeks ago.

    He now faces an anxious wait to discover whether or not the injury will end his career.

    England wait for an update on Robinson, Ford underlined the threat
    posed by Ireland's celebrated midfield pairing of Brian O'Driscoll and
    Gordon D'Arcy.

    O'Driscoll has recovered from a hamstring problem that meant he missed the 20-17 defeat against France earlier this month.

    His partnership with D'Arcy poses arguably the biggest danger to an England team targeting a first Dublin victory since 2003.

    Ford added: "We knew Brian would be fit, so we have been planning to counter the threat.

    "O'Driscoll is the top try-scorer in Irish international rugby history, and his record speaks for itself.

    a defensive coach, it is D'Arcy, really, who worries you the most. He
    has got great acceleration off the mark; he can step off both feet and
    he really is the catalyst for Ireland to go forward.

    "At the moment, Brian is playing a kind of support role to what D'Arcy is doing. They are both great players."

    spent four years as Ireland's defence co-ordinator – his chief role
    with England since last May – and has questioned their ability to cope
    with being favourites, a mantle they hold going into Saturday's



      Flash Gordon has feet on ground ahead of battle against 'legend' Farrell</font>
      <table align="right" border="1" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="122"><t><tr>

      Gordon D'Arcy is looking forward to coming up England's former rugby league legend Andy Farrell at Croke Park on Saturday


      Thursday February 22nd 2007</font>

      FOR most of us, the jury is still very much out on England centre Andy Farrell.

      Not so, it seems, for Gordon D'Arcy, although there's the obvious
      conclusion that he is bound to say good things about the former Rugby
      League star.

      Others might feel that Farrell is a big powerful guy who has done
      alright to date, but the real test will come when he lines up against
      D'Arcy at Croke Park this Saturday.

      The inside centre battle is going to have a major bearing on the
      game's outcome, as is the battle between the respective midfield
      threes. D'Arcy is just glad to have Brian O'Driscoll back to help

      It's quite simple, any team in the world would like to have
      O'Driscoll. "We're no different. England would love to have him. The
      thing is he consolidates the back division, his return is a timely

      And, if D'Arcy knows all there is to know about his centre
      colleague, he's also not bad on Farrell. He goes as far as to describe
      him as "a legend", and insists that it will be a privilege to mark him.

      Maybe, in Rugby Union terms, it should be the other way around, but D'Arcy clearly has considerable respect for his rival.

      "Since Michael Cheika and David Knox arrived at Leinster, we ended up watching a lot of Rugby League games.

      "Andy Farrell has been the driving force behind Great Britain for so
      many years. So, it's nice to be playing against a legend from another

      That's all very well, but surely Farrell's inexperience at Rugby
      Union should provide D'Arcy with an edge? "I wouldn't necessarily say
      that. I think 10, 12 and 13 (Jonny Wilkinson, Farrell and Mike Tindall)
      have been working quite well in defence for England.

      "Jonny Wilkinson being back there will add a bit of confidence. He's
      an aggressive defender, he really leads the line up, and makes
      Farrell's job at 12 a lot easier."

      One aspect to Farrell's game that D'Arcy doesn't intend getting to
      worked up about is his imposing size. At 6 foot, 3 inches, and 16
      stone, he is considerable bigger than his opposite number.

      Then again, as the 5 foot, 10 inch, 14 stone D'Arcy puts it,
      "pretty much everyone in world rugby is bigger than me at the moment."

      He adds: "I just kind of get on with it, Matt Giteau is the only
      one (centre) who is smaller than me, and he's been playing at

      "I've got my own attributes, just as Brian (O'Driscoll) and Andy
      Farrell have their good parts. I'll probably not try and go over
      Farrell, as he probably out-weights me by three stone."

      Not quite, but the point is well made. The truth is that D'Arcy is
      a much better player since he realised that he is never going to be
      someone who runs over his opposition.

      Quick feet, smashing footballing skills, that's what it's all
      about. Hence, the decision to reduce his weight, and the return to the
      sort of form which made him such a success when he first came onto the
      international scene.

      There's another factor. Last summer, he went to Calcutta for the
      Third World charity GOAL, and return




        Thursday February 22nd 2007</font>

        March 30, 2003, Lansdowne Road

        Ouch! After Martin Johnson led Mary McAleese a merry dance on the
        red carpet - and quite right he was too after the IRFU's appalling
        cock-up - his band of not so merry men trampled Ireland's Grand Slam
        dreams into smithereens.

        An early try from Lawrence Dallaglio and second-half scores from
        Mike Tindall, Will Greenwood (2) and Dan Luger proved more than
        sufficient to douse the Irish fire.

        Jonny Wilkinson added 15 points from two drop goals, three
        conversions and a penalty to secure England's 12th Grand Slam. And
        observe the key notables. Wilkinson. Tindall. Jason Robinson. Be

        England and Ireland have exactly the same amount of Six Nations wins between them since 2000.

        What they're saying
        "We really don't want the inaugural year of playing in Croke Park to end with two games, two losses," Brian O'Driscoll.



          Robinson blow for Ashton</font>
          <table align="right" border="1" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="122"><t><tr>



          Thursday February 22nd 2007</font>

          Winger's fitness battle for Croker after injury scare

          HAVING chewed his nails to the quick as his English stars submerged
          themselves in the wrecking ball that is the Guinness Premiership last
          weekend without serious consequence, sod's law decreed that English
          coach Brian Ashton should see one of his stars felled in the side's
          first full-on contact session ahead of this Saturday's titanic tussle.

          When wing Jason Robinson shipped a heavy knock to his shoulder/neck
          area during yesterday's session at Bath University, it was difficult to
          ascertain who grimaced most - player or coach.

          Unlike the injured Robinson, whose shoulder was last seen coated in
          bags of ice, Ashton did his best to shrug off the affliction just as
          the Sale captain was sent for medical attention. And the rest of the
          English camp seemed similarly sanguine.

          Key performer

          As precautionary cover, Ashton has called up Harlequins' Dave
          Strettle, a key performer in England Saxons' victory over Italy A
          earlier this month, to the squad. "Jason has got a knock on his
          shoulder and has gone off to see the doctor," said assistant coach Mike
          Ford. "Hopefully he will be okay."

          Robinson has been the sole source of England's cutting edge under
          the surprisingly restrained play-book of the new man at the helm,
          having scored three tries in England's wins over Scotland and Italy.

          The England management expect to know today whether the injury will
          affect Robinson's availability for the Croke Park encounter.

          If he fails to recover, coach Brian Ashton will promote Mathew
          Tait, who played wing against Australia last summer, from the
          replacements' bench. Ireland still have their injury problems, with
          Peter Stringer's significant absence from the squad's heavy duty work
          on Tuesday morning leaving him behind the eight ball as he fights to
          regain his test berth from Isaac Boss.

          His ability to take the rough stuff in training this morning - for
          surely the English will indecently relish targeting a scrum-half's
          stricken hand - will decide whether he can resume duty as alongside
          Ronan O'Gara.

          "England have hit the ground running as I expected in the Six Nations," says O'Sullivan.

          "They had two good games to start, at home, against Scotland and
          Italy, knowing that if they played well they'd win both games and then
          come to Dublin with a certain amount of momentum. "They're coming here
          believing they can win if they play to scratch. We're under no
          illusions that we have to play to our best to win so there's no real
          surprises there. There never has been when we play England.

          "We've been successful against England over the past few years but
          I keep having to remind people that they've all been close encounters,
          with one score in it at the end of the day.

          "If you want any proof of that, you only have to look at last year
          when it was as tight as you could get it, a try in the last minute of
          the game. It's tantamount to negligence for us not to expect a big game
          from England.

          "They're in a good place at the moment, they're nicely poised and
          this game could make their Six Nations so it's up to us t


            <h1> Injured Robinson in doubt for Ireland clash </h1>
            @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Mick Cleary@@@@/SPAN>
            <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">3:27am GMT@@@@/SPAN>22/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
            Have your say
            Read comments

            <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">RUCKU: 'O'Gara is soft'</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Brendan Gallagher on the history of Croke Park</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Six Nations on Telegraph TV</td></tr></t></table>England put so much muscle and bone into their first proper training session of the week yesterday
            that one of their star turns, Jason Robinson, ended up in the medical
            tent and possibly out of Saturday's RBS Six Nations Championship match
            against Ireland at Croke Park.<table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" ="0" width="207"><t><tr><td rowspan="2" width="8"></td><td width="199"><center></center></td></tr><tr><td ="capti&#111;n"><center>Out: Jason Robinson receives treatment after injuring his neck</center></td></tr></t></table>Robinson,
            who has scored three tries in the two Tests since he came out of
            retirement, took a blow to the neck and was unable to finish the
            session. The twists and turns of an eventful day were not over even
            then. Late in the afternoon head coach Brian Ashton decided to overlook
            the claims of seasoned wing Mark Cueto as a possible replacement and
            opted to call up 23-year-old uncapped Harlequin wing David Strettle,
            who was playing National One rugby for Rotherham last year.Robinson
            will be assessed this morning before the squad decamp from their
            training base in Bath to head for Heathrow and on to Dublin.
            Newcastle's Mathew Tait took Robinson's place in training and there
            would be a certain logic in promoting him to the starting XV. Ashton,
            however, is not afraid to make bold calls as he showed when pitching in
            uncapped Gloucester full-back Olly Morgan to face Scotland after Iain
            Balshaw cried off.Ashton's reasoning was that
            Morgan was an out-and-out full-back and preferable to switching either
            Robinson or Lewsey from the wing. Tait, for that matter, is more of a
            centre than a wing.Initially, Ashton was not too concerned by Robinson's bump but the doctor's more detailed ass


              <h1> O'Driscoll the man to fire up Irish machine </h1>
              @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Brendan Gallagher in Dublin@@@@/SPAN>
              <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">3:27am GMT@@@@/SPAN>22/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
              Have your say
              Read comments

              <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">RUCKU: 'O'Gara is soft'</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Brendan Gallagher on the history of Croke Park</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Six Nations on Telegraph TV</td></tr></t></table>One
              man does not make a team, runs the perceived sporting wisdom, but a few
              players have come close to disproving that, whether by the force of
              their personality, their virtuosity as players or more usually both.
              You will have your own nominations. Mine? John Eales, Jonah Lomu for a
              while, Martin Johnson and Joost van der Westhuizen in his pomp with
              South Africa, while you suspect that even Graham Henry's extraordinary
              modern-day All Blacks would be considerably diminished if ever Richie
              McCaw encountered serious long-term injury problems.Ireland's
              Brian O'Driscoll must be added to that elite list. How he was missed
              against France at Croke Park 11 days ago. Off hand, I can think of five
              or six occasions you instinctively looked for him to finish off a move,
              make a big tackle or kick the ball 60 metres downfield into touch. And
              if we were doing that in the grandstand, you can bet the players
              themselves were thinking likewise.It's not just
              that O'Driscoll is Ireland's main strike weapon, most consistent scorer
              of important tries, midfield creator par excellence, the best defensive
              back in Europe by a mile, talisman and captain.When
              O'Driscoll is playing everybody else in the Ireland team knows exactly
              what his role is - what his 'place' is if you want to be brutally
              honest - and performs better accordingly. He is the cog, everything
              automatically revolves around him as if by genetic design. When
              O'Driscoll is absent, the natural inclination is for others to
              over-compensate and the previously well-oiled machine overheats and
              under-performs.<div ="mpuad"><div ="adtxt">advertisement</div>< src="" =""></div>Shane
              Horgan, in particular, and Gordon D'Arcy occasionally pressed too hard
              in unpromising circumstances against France, sensing O'Driscoll would
              have conjured something in similar circumstances. And of course both
              function best, as does another Leinster colleague, Denis Hickie, when
              they can work off O'Driscoll, reading him



                Irish skipper wary of Wilkinson

                Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll believes stopping Jonny Wilkinson is
                key to gaining an RBS Six Nations win over England in Dublin on

                "He's is a pivotal character - and that's the understatement of the year," said the Irish centre.

                "He's massively important to any side he's played in and I don't envisage it being any different this time around."

                "Jonny seems to have picked up where he left off the last time he was in an England jersey."


                Wilkinson finally ended his injury-enforced exile, which dated back to
                the 2003 World Cup final, in England's Six Nations opener against

                The Newcastle fly-half enjoyed a fairytale comeback,
                finishing with a 27-point haul, the highest by an Englishman against
                Scotland, and the man-of-the-match award.

                However, O'Driscoll feels that the 27-year-old needs more time to find his best form after such a long lay-off.

                "Three years in the wilderness will have taken its toll and that's what
                made his performance against Scotland all the more remarkable," he



                "It shows how mentally tough he is as well because it was a great
                display considering the pressure he was under. I imagine he will get
                consistently better the more he plays."

                The emergence of Andy Farrell at inside centre has
                also lifted English spirits with the rugby league convert making an
                encouraging start to his Test career.

                But Ireland's midfield will be a completely different
                proposition for Farrell after facing probably the two weakest backlines
                in the Six Nations.

                O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy are arguably the best
                centre partnership in the world, with the latter in lethal form at the
                moment, and Saturday's contest will give a better indication of
                Farrell's progress.

                "Andy hasn't done anything wrong. He's suited to the
                style of play as a second receiver - Andy and Wilkinson like to mix
                things up," said O'Driscoll.



                "They're both excellent passers of the ball and that gives England
                great width. Andy has a strong defensive game and has a lot of

                O'Driscoll returns to action after missing the agonising 20-17 loss to France in Ireland's first game at Croke Park.

                "You can look at the France game in two different ways. There's no
                longer the hype still surrounding our Grand Slam hopes," he said.

                "From that point of view there's some pressure off
                us. But on the flip side, we have only two games at Croke Park this
                year and we've lost the first of them.

                "We really don't want the inaugural year of playing in Croke Park to end with two games, two losses."


                Story from BBC SPO


                  <h3>England cool before Croke Park cauldron</h3>

                  <ul ="entryextras"><li ="comments">
                  Comments (57)[/list]

                  <ul ="entrydetails"><li ="author">Mark Orlovac - BBC Sport journalist<li ="date">21 Feb 07, 04:48 PM[/list]

                  It’s international week and England are about to head to Dublin for
                  their historic date with Ireland but seeing the players at their Bath University training base on Wednesday – you never would have guessed.

                  After a full-on training session - with members of the Bath academy
                  standing in for the Irish - they talked respectfully and sincerely
                  about the emotional backdrop that accompanies this game, using words
                  like "privileged" and "honoured" in describing the prospect of playing
                  at the home of the GAA.

                  But I could definitely detect a sense of calm as they gathered in one
                  of the vast halls that make up Bath University’s impressive sporting

                  I didn't actually see Jason Robinson get injured - most of the reporters had gone back into the complex by then.

                  Details of the injury were sketchy - and no-one was telling whether it
                  was a tackle from a promising Bath youngster that did the damage!

                  The England PR machine won't have been too happy to have one of their star players injured and 'bad news' photos of him getting treatment all over the backpages.

                  The latest at 5pm on Wednesday was there would be no further update
                  on his injury til Thursday, although I see they have called up Dave
                  Strettle as a precaution.

                  Still, the setback didn't seem to upset preparations too much.

                  Maybe it is the effect of England’s measured and down-to-earth head
                  coach Brian Ashton. Or maybe it is hard to get too carried away when a
                  pole vaulter is going through his paces yards from where the press
                  conferences are to be held.

                  To give you an example of the atmosphere, Martin Corry stood over the
                  shoulder of a camera crew trying to put off Leicester colleague Harry
                  Ellis as he was being interviewed while Perry Freshwater could hardly
                  contain himself as Louis Deacon poised for a photographer like a male
                  model would for a catalogue.

                  Now there is no doubt that this weekend will be hugely emotional and
                  significant and when the players get to Dublin the nerves will be

                  But on the evidence of Wednesday, the players are not letting the
                  pressure get to them and ahead of what is a massively-hyped game that
                  can only be a good thing for England fans.

                  At the start of the session, the crowd was sparse but as training grew more vocal and intense, word spread and the numbers grew.

                  And at one point Ashton had to stop himself from shouting instructions
                  to his players during an attacking drill as he looked at the throng on
                  the touchline, pulling his charges in for a huddle instead.

                  England’s players did not hold back when youngsters from Bath's
                  academy bravely kitted up in shoulder pads - the sharp intakes of
                  breath from the viewing public after big hits f


                    <h1 ="ing">Ten years on, Ireland acknowledges rich legacy bequeathed by Ashton</h1><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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                    @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
                    <!- BEGIN: Module - Main Article -><!- Check the Article and display accordingly-><!- Print Author image associated with the Author-><!- Print the of the article-><!- Paginati&#111;n ->

                    When Brian Ashton’s year-long tenure as Ireland coach a decade ago came to an
                    ill-starred end, it seemed few shed a tear at his departure. The
                    relationship had clearly not worked and a quick divorce was to the benefit
                    of both parties. However, with hindsight, it is clear that the country now
                    ranked in the world’s top three has much for which to thank the man charged
                    with plotting the downfall of Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday.

                    It was Ashton who was mainly responsible for drawing up the blueprint for the
                    structure that has served the country so well since the Millennium. Indeed,
                    it is being described in some quarters as his legacy.

                    When he signed his unprecedented six-year contract in January 1997, Ashton
                    advocated a system and structure based on the existing four provinces each
                    with a full-time coach and a squad of 25 professionals. In fact, it was a
                    condition of his appointment and when the IRFU failed to deliver, it was one
                    of the main reasons for his exit. Although he was not around to see its
                    eventual implementation, Ashton is now recognised as the driving force who
                    hastened the process for a country that had farther to come than most in
                    terms of embracing professionalism.

                    Certainly, Eddie O’Sullivan, who had just moved to the United States when
                    Ashton arrived in Ireland, agrees that a debt is owed to the Englishman. “He
                    had a big input in suggesting the union pool their resources into the four
                    provinces with four professional sides and build the national squad around
                    that,” the Ireland coach said. “Had he not been a catalyst at that point in
                    dealing with the union, they may not have taken those strides so quickly. He
                    has to take credit for that, for the strength of our structure in the last
                    number of years.”
                    <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."->

                    Denis Hickie, the only playing survivor from 1997, and who was first capped
                    under Ashton, remembers the impact made by the now England head coach. “It
                    was fantastic for me because I was not just going to be on the wing chasing
                    kicks all day,” he said. “He had a real vision. The reality, though, was
                    that we were not the team to deliver it at that time.”

                    The story of Ashton’s time with Ireland is told in a fascinating account of
                    the often rocky journey to professionalism trodden by the country. In the
                    book From There to Here, Brendan Fanning, rugby correspondent of the Sunday
                    , chronicles the events that led to Ashton being appointed
                    and all too rapidly leaving, after he refused to move to Dublin full time
                    because he felt the IRFU was not delivering on what he felt had been
                    promised. The irony is that process of what Fanning calls “Operation
                    Repatriate” began soon after Ashton left.

                    The fact that Ashton lasted such a short time was because of a combination of
                    factors — a personality clash with Pat Whelan, the manager, chief among
                    them. Ultimately, however, it was the Lancastrian’s anger and exasper


                      <h1 ="ing">Wilkinson: I don't like kicking</h1><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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                      Jonny Wilkinson doesn't actually like kicking. For someone who makes a point
                      of booting a ball around for two hours every day, even on Christmas Day, and
                      has made a career out of kicking down rugby points records, that it is quite
                      a confession.

                      But Wilkinson insists it is true and the reason he is hoping for an attacking
                      and inventive encounter against Ireland in an historic RBS Six Nations match
                      at Croke Park on Saturday. Wilkinson accepts that England's sterile 20-7
                      victory against Italy at Twickenham was far from impressive and admits that
                      Brian Ashton's men must improve.

                      He said: "We came away with a win and kept Italy two scores back, which
                      meant we were not hanging on at the end. But there was huge disappointment
                      that we were not able to get the best out of our players and I came off the
                      field disappointed because I didn't really feel I had been in a game. I
                      don't like kicking the ball a lot at all, which is a bit of a mistake people
                      make about me.

                      "I practise it because it is a huge part of the game but it is not
                      something I necessarily like doing. I love the game of rugby for running
                      around and being involved so I was disappointed as well."
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                      Wilkinson, however, is under no illusions about the furnace-like atmosphere
                      England must quell if they are to defeat Ireland. England have not beaten
                      the Irish since they lifted the Grand Slam at Lansdowne Road in 2003, which
                      just so happens to be the last time England's inspirational fly-half lined
                      up against them.

                      But Wilkinson, the tournament's all-time leading points scorer, is thriving on
                      the challenge. He said: "We've got lots of work to do and that's
                      exactly where we like to be. The pressure is on.

                      "We've got to find our feet very quickly and understand it's going to be
                      a frantic pace. It's going to be one of those games where, if you lose
                      concentration for a second, that could be it."

                      You might expect that 2003 England triumph, when captain Martin Johnson was
                      accused of snubbing Irish president Mary McAleese when he refused to line up
                      on the required mark, to be one of Wilkinson's great inspirations.

                      But true to his inte


                        <h2 ="uppercase clear">Farrell dipped into acid test</h2>

                        <h3>Tuesday 20th February 2007</h3>
                        <div ="story">

                        <h2>Andy Farrell: Bigger tests await in Dublin</h2>


                        @@@@SPAN id="intelliTXT">

                        Farrell will face the biggest examination of his short lived rugby
                        union career on Saturday when he lines up for England against Ireland
                        at Croke Park.

                        Farrell's ex-rugby league team mate Shaun Edwards has urged him to
                        use his muscle and impose himself on the Irish centre pairing of Brian
                        O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.

                        The Irish centre pairing are widely regarded as the best in the
                        Northern Hemisphere and will provide Farrell with a huge test of his
                        union abilities on Saturday.

                        Farrell was thrown in at the deep end, so to speak, when he was
                        selected in Brian Ashton's first England team after only a handful of
                        appearances for Saracens, and is now expected to deliver against

                        The key to Farrell succeeding against the rated Irish duo,
                        according to Edwards, is for him to use his size and strength to his

                        "Andy Farrell has got to try and impose himself on the Ireland centres," said Edwards.

                        "He's considerably bigger than Gordon D'Arcy in particular. Faz has
                        got to assert his physicality and make that a feature of the game.

                        "He's got to bash them up a bit if he can because they'll be
                        looking to test him out with their speed and their understanding. Faz
                        is well aware of that and has got to work out his own way of making
                        them think twice.

                        "He's got to get into them because if you give that pair, who are
                        the best centre combination in the northern hemisphere, too much space,
                        then you're in trouble."

                        Ashton has also been boosted by a clean bill of health to his
                        England contingent who played in the Guinness Premiership this weekend.
                        He can also take heart from a series of top performances from the like
                        of Jason Robinson and Magnus Lund, showing some promise for the trip to

                        Edwards witnessed Robinson's (another former league team-mate of
                        his) performance first hand as the Sale man almost scored from the
                        kick-off against Wasps.

                        "We'd practiced all week to defend just that," added Edwards.

                        "I had a few ideas about how we could stop him. So much for that,
                        eh? It looks to me as if Jason has really got his confidence and energy

                        "That's brilliant news for Brian Ashton and for English rugby. What
                        used to make him so special was his unpredictability. That element is
                        back big time.

                        "It's all good news for England. You look at Jason's name on the
                        team sheet, and then see Jonny's (Wilkinson) and suddenly you feel a
                        lot more reassured."

                        Wasps' victory over Sale also saw Tom Rees and Magnus Lund go head-to-head in a battle of the England candidates.

                        Rees was superb for Wasps, but will still only provide back-up to
                        Lund for his country, but Edwards had nothing but praise for his man.

                        "We're seeing the benefits of all the hard work that Tom has put in," Edwards said.

                        "We all know he's got fantastic leg-power in open play but he's showing that he can get his nose over the ball as well." @@@@/SPAN>


                          <h2 ="uppercase clear">BOD returns to face the English</h2>

                          <h3>Tuesday 20th February 2007</h3>
                          <div ="story">

                          <h2>Back with a bang: Brian O Driscoll will lead Ireland on Saturday</h2>


                          @@@@SPAN id="intelliTXT">

                          O'Driscoll has been restored to Ireland's starting line-up for the Six
                          Nations clash with England at Croke Park on Saturday.

                          O'Driscoll missed the 20-17 defeat by France with the hamstring
                          strain he sustained in the championship opener against Wales but has
                          made a full recovery.

                          The Leinster centre takes over the captaincy from Paul O'Connell
                          with Shane Horgan switching to the right wing and Geordan Murphy
                          dropping out of the squad.

                          Peter Stringer is still struggling with the fractured hand that
                          forced him to miss the Croke Park debut so Ireland have left the
                          scrum-half berth open.

                          Stringer will be given until later in the week to prove his fitness
                          with Isaac Boss ready to deputise once again should the Munster veteran
                          fail to make it.

                          Ronan O'Gara suffered an ankle injury against France and missed
                          training last week but has also been included in the team to face

                          Powerful Ulster back Andrew Trimble is preferred to Murphy on the bench.

                          Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan is pleased by the speed of
                          Stringer's rehabilitation and will make a final decision on his
                          selection in the next two days.

                          "The situation with Peter is encouraging at the moment," he said.

                          "His progress slowed down this week but he had a workout yesterday and there has been no adverse reaction to it so far.

                          "We'll give it another 48 hours and then take another look at the situation."

                          O'Sullivan claimed Murphy had paid the price for his indifferent form with Trimble edging a narrow call on the bench.

                          "The exclusion of Geordan will be an issue for some but with Brian
                          back and Shane on the wing it was a scramble for the utility position
                          on bench," he said.

                          "It was a tough call but that's where we were. Geordan is not
                          firing on all cylinders at the moment and Andrew has come back

                          Ireland: Girvan Dempsey (Leinster), 14 Shane Horgan
                          (Leinster), 13 Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy
                          (Leinster), 11 Denis Hickie (Leinster), 10 Ronan O'Gara (Munster), 9
                          Peter Stringer (Munster)/ Isaac Boss (Ulster), 8 Denis Leamy (Munster),
                          7 David Wallace (Munster), 6 Simon Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets), 5 Paul
                          O'Connell (Munster), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), 3 John Hayes
                          (Munster), 2 Rory Best (Ulster), 1 Marcus Horan (Munster).
                          Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery (Munster), 17 Simon Best
                          (Ulster), 18 Neil Best (Ulster), 19 Mick O'Driscoll (Munster), 20 Isaac
                          Boss (Ulster)/ Eoin Reddan (Wasps), 21 Paddy Wallace (Ulster), 22
                          Andrew Trimble (Ulster).

                          Date: Saturday, February 24

                          Venue: Croke Park, Dublin

                          Kick-off: 17:30 GMT

                          Referee: Joël Jutge (France)

                          Touch judges: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Christophe Berdos (France)

                          Television match official: Romain Poite (France)

                          Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland) @@@@/SPAN>



                            Net market for tickets boils over.
                            <DIV =LeadPara>Ireland v England: Let's start with an understatement: tickets are hard to come by for Saturday's Six Nations game at Croke Park. </DIV>
                            <DIV =LeadPara>English supporters will officially number 7,000 but - assuming Saturday's visitors can replicate, or surpass, the recent French invasion - a significant chunk of Europe's fourth-biggest stadium will be singing God Save the Queen before the 5.30pm kick-off. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>The black market has never experienced such demand for a sporting event in Ireland. Let's get face values on the record first. A premium seat is €110, a stand seat €80. A place on the terrace costs €30 (€10 for a schoolchild). </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>Six months ago a pair of premium tickets could be purchased from a corporate-event organiser for €650, €500 for the French match. These figures have increased significantly. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>Some 82,300 people will descend on Croke Park this Saturday - well, minus the 50 tickets withheld at the front of the Davin Stand to accommodate anyone suffering an attack of vertigo in the upper tier - a common predicament, it seems, in modern stadia. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas> is a common port of call for the desperate this week. For punters willing to be dragged into a bidding war for two Cusack Stand tickets, €2,400 was the going rate yesterday evening. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>The English RFU received an increased allocation of 2,200 tickets, which they will reciprocate to the IRFU for next year's game at Twickenham. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>"Previously, a 4,800 reciprocal deal was in place between the unions," said an English union source yesterday. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>"We give and receive 5,500 tickets with the other unions but that was due to Lansdowne Road being a smaller ground." </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>The clubs receive the lion's share of tickets from the IRFU and have been given a 15 per cent increase as a result of improved capacity at Jones's Road - 34,000 more than at Lansdowne Road </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>"Initially we received the same ticket allocation as an international at Lansdowne Road," said the Leinster Branch CEO, Mick Dawson. "Then an opportunity arose to apply for additional tickets. We went to the clubs and the vast majority said yes. Everyone got what they wanted." </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>Leinster received approximately 23,000 tickets; their previous allocation had been 15,000, more than any of the other three provinces. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>Among the clubs, Ireland's oldest, Trinity College, enjoys the biggest allocation. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>An established club like Blackrock College receives around 200 stand and 250 Hill 16 tickets. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>One All-Ireland League club have tapped into the corporate market by offering the creature comforts of a five-star Dublin hotel, lunch, a match ticket and transport to the game for 350 people at €700 a head. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>A fuller breakdown of ticket allocation is unavailable, the IRFU refusing to provide details on the grounds it is "too sensitive" an issue. </DIV>
                            <DIV =TailParas>(c) 2007, The Irish Times. </DIV>
                            Seas suas agus troid!



                              Six Nations Countdown.
                              <DIV =LeadPara>Hogan takes stand: Two themes have dominated this week: Bloody Sunday and the playing of the British national anthem. Feelings have tended to run high. </DIV>
                              <DIV =LeadPara>The most recent development has the nephew of the Tipperary footballer Mick Hogan, who was shot and killed by British forces on Bloody Sunday, calling on the Irish public to welcome the English and respect their anthem. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>"My uncle was a victim of the times. If it was not him shot on the day it would have been another player," said Michael Hogan of Currasilla, Grangemockler, Co Tipperary. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>"Personally if I had to vote on the issue I would not support other sports being played in Croke Park but I accept the democratic decision of the GAA to go down that road." </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>Michael, who has been pursued by national and international media in advance of the game, hopes all the attention and the historical significance of the occasion might revive interest in the events of November 21st, 1920. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>"I would like to think that this game might encourage younger generations to read about the events of Bloody Sunday and take an interest in what happened," he says. "It's a very important part of the history of South Tipperary, of our country and of the GAA." </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>The main Croke Park stand was named after Hogan in 1924. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>Elwood keeps faith </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>As expected, Eric Elwood has made just one alteration to the Irish under-20 team that beat France 19-16 (yes, that was the final score) to face England tomorrow night at Dubarry Park, Athlone, kick-off 7.30pm. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>UCD number eight Seán O'Brien comes in for Tommy O'Donnell, with team captain David Pollack returning to the openside flank and Kevin Sheahan dropping off the bench. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>Leinster and Blackrock fullback Luke Fitzgerald was again ruled out by injury. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>With both teams having won their opening two games, this match is a potential championship decider. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>More is the pity, RTÉ opted to televise the AIB club international at Donnybrook. Nothing is at stake in the representative game between amateurs, while in Athlone the future of Irish rugby is attempting to shine. Go figure. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>IRELAND: Felix Jones (Seapoint); Shane Monahan (Dublin University), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins), Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers), Keith Earls (Thomond); Ian Keatley (UCD), Paul O'Donohoe (UCD); Cian Healy (Clontarf), Richard Sweeney (St Mary's College), Jamie Hagan (Greystones); Conor McInerney (UCD), Andrew Browne (Galwegians); Thomas Anderson (Dungannon), David Pollock (capt, QUB), Seán O'Brien (UCD). Replacements: Ger Slattery (Young Munster), Ruaidhri Murphy (Lansdowne), Neilus Keogh (UCC), Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians), David Drake (Ballymena), Niall O'Connor (Belfast Harlequins), Kyle Tonetti (Blackrock College). </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>Legends look fresh </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>A fairly significant international slipped quietly under the radar two weeks ago as the Irish Legends handed their French counterparts a comprehensive 36-5 beating at Anglesea Road. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>England arrive at the home of Old Belvedere RFC tomorrow night for the 7pm kick-off. </DIV>
                              <DIV =TailParas>Coached by Jeremy Davidson and managed by Paul Wallace (and sponsored by Euroconstruction), the Irish team contains several names to conjure with, including winger Richie Wallace, who ensures the full complement
                              Seas suas agus troid!