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    Your Sunday Papers Sir........

    <h1>Demonstrators fight losing battle </h1>
    @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Simon Hart, Sunday Telegraph@@@@/SPAN>
    <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">12:02am GMT@@@@/SPAN>25/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
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    <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Match report: England outclassed</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">In pics: Six Nations action</td></tr></t></table>Huddled
    against the torrential rain outside the 'Some Like It Hot' Indian
    takeaway on the Drumcondra Road, the small group of placard-waving
    Republican demonstrators corralled behind a line of Garda officers went
    largely unnoticed as thousands of green clad supporters poured past
    them on their way to 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>Croke Park: a demonstrator protests outside the stadium</center></td></tr></t></table>Their
    forlorn bedraggled protest, organised by the splinter group Republicans
    Sinn Fein to highlight the 'unacceptable normalisation' of relations
    between Ireland and England, summed up an extraordinary evening in
    Dublin.It was a night when Ireland put aside the
    past and celebrated the present and when sport provided a far more
    eloquent response to English oppression than the crude placards being
    waved outside.After weeks of searching in Ireland
    that had concentrated on the historical significance of yesterday's
    fixture and had largely ignored the rugby, it was ironic that national
    pride was to be found in remarkable 43-13 scoreline and in a display by
    Brian O'Driscoll's men that was truly magnificent. England were quite
    simply overwhelmed.Before the game, debate has
    centred on how the Croke Park crowd would react to the playing of 'God
    Save The Queen' for the first time in the stadium where the first
    Bloody Sunday massacre took place 87 years ago.<!-MPU BLOCKED BY PAGE->When
    the moment arrived, the England players appeared to brace themselves
    for the impending onslaught, linking arms and staring straight ahead at
    the Hogan Stand, named after the young Tipperary footballer who was one
    of 14 civilians killed in 1920 when the Black and Tans marched into
    Croke Park in the middle of a Gaelic football match to avenge the
    murder of British intelligence officers.Would the
    anthem be drowned out by Irish boos? Would some Irish fans, as had been

    <h1> England outclassed</h1>
    @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Paul Ackford at Croke Park, Sunday Telegraph@@@@/SPAN>
    <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">12:01am GMT@@@@/SPAN>25/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
    @@@@SPAN ="small">Match details
    Ireland player ratings
    England player ratings
    <!-NO VIEW->

    <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Demonstrators fight losing battle</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">In pics: Six Nations action</td></tr></t></table>Ireland 43 England 13A
    comprehensive victory for Ireland: well-deserved and well constructed.
    This was a game in which they played as they can, a game when they
    looked as if they might do something special at the World Cup. Not so
    for England. Yesterday was too big a match too early for them. They
    didn't exactly implode but when the big questions were asked they
    struggled to produce answers.<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>Touching moment: full-back Girvan Dempsey scores Ireland's first try</center></td></tr></t></table>The
    noise as Ireland ran out was almost overwhelming. And the tension just
    built and built as both teams observed the pre-match courtesies. There
    was not even a sniff of a protest. England were greeted warmly when
    they entered Croke Park and the National Anthem echoed round the
    stadium with none of the accompanying calls of derision which some had
    predicted. In hindsight the alarm was more media mischief than anything
    else, newspapermen keen to drum up a story when none existed. Shame on
    us.But if there was no real drama before the
    match, there was plenty in the first half. England flattered to go 3-0
    up inside the first minute from a penalty from Jonny Wilkinson but
    afterwards it was all Ireland as they laid siege to England and
    established control of the match by the interval.Brian
    O'Driscoll, looking especially sharp, was the early conductor,
    targeting England's defensive channel around outside centre. Ireland's
    other ploy was to use O'Gara and O'Driscoll to rain kicks down on David
    Strettle and Olly Morgan, the two most inexperienced members of
    England's backline. And when they weren't bombarding them, Irel


      <h1> Ashton: 'We were stuffed but I still have faith in the squad'</h1>
      <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">12:02am GMT@@@@/SPAN>25/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
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      <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Demonstrators fight losing battle</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">In pics: Six Nations action</td></tr></t></table>England head coach Brian Ashton conceded his side had been ''stuffed" in every department at Croke Park.Ashton
      said: "I'm very disappointed. I said how we made mistakes against
      Scotland and Italy and that we'd need to go up two or three gears if we
      were to beat Ireland."But we didn't do that and
      were punished by a side who were sharper than we were. They were more
      physical and fresher. We were beaten all over the field, there's no
      doubt about that. We knew it would be a difficult game but hoped to
      gain parity or dominance in some areas of the pitch."But we were stuffed and we have to take it on the chin. We were outplayed by the better side.<div ="mpuad"><div ="adtxt">advertisement</div>< src="" =""></div>"They were better up front. I thought their forwards played very well."They scrummaged better than in previous games and when you have a line-out like theirs you're well on your way."They looked a lot more physical than us and they were more physical in the collisions. I didn't see that result coming."I don't feel embarrassed or humiliated. I feel there's a lot of work to do, but we already knew that."Ashton
      said: "At half-time we knew it was going to be very difficult to get
      back into the game. But we had our best period 15 minutes after
      half-time, winning ball and keeping it, which made life easier for us."At
      that stage it didn't look like we were postponing the inevitable. If
      we'd sustained that momentum we could have made more of an impact on
      the game."I'll go back, look at the players
      available and where we have to get to and which players will take us
      forward. I still have faith in the squad."Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan admitted criticism of his side's heartbreaking 20-17 defeat by France had stung.He said: "We're back in the championship and still in with a shout at Triple Crown."We wanted to win our last game at Croke Park this year and bounce back after the sickening way we lost to France."The English media calling us chokers after that game also provided motivation, if we needed any more."The first 10 or 15 minutes were shadow-


        Ireland 43 England 13: England bow to history and a green machine

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        Vickery and Co broken on an Irish anvil of pride, passion and
        brilliance as the Croke Park factor turns O'Driscoll's team into
        irresistible force </h2>

        By Tim Glover at Croke Park

        Published:25 February 2007

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        Irish full-back Girvan Dempsey celebrates his try at Croke Park

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        England retreated from Dublin last night in some disarray, their hopes
        of mounting a decent challenge in the Six Nations' Championship, let
        alone a worthy defence of the World Cup in eight months' time, smashed
        by a record defeat here.

        They were simply no match for an inspired Ireland who are closing in on
        their third Triple Crown in four years. England, paying their first and
        possibly last visit to Croke Park, choked in the face of relentless
        pressure and were outplayed by four tries to one. If there was a single
        redeeming feature for Phil Vickery's team it was not immediately

        It wasn't until yesterday morning that Brian Ashton, three matches
        into his reign as England head coach, announced to the surprise of
        nobody that Jonny Wilkinson was fit to play after recovering from a
        hamstring injury. Ashton had already been accused by his Irish
        counterpart, Eddie O'Sullivan, of "playing silly buggers" over the saga
        and the silliest buggers of all were England, whose indiscipline
        allowed Ronan O'Gara to put on a Wilkinsonesque display of goalkicking.

        The stand-off from Munster did not miss a trick, kicking five
        penalties and converting three of the tries. He would have converted
        the last, an opportunistic effort by the replacement scrum-half Isaac
        Boss who intercepted a pass by Shaun Perry, but had already gone off to
        a standing ovation. O'Gara scored 21 points and if he was the
        accomplished conductor, his pack of forwards were the orchestrators of
        a famous victory. England were played off the park and had not suffered
        such a pasting by the Irish since a 22-0 defeat in 1947.

        This set-to, of course, was even more emotionally charged than usual
        because of the venue. Croke Park is not just the home of Gaeli


          A night of real glory - and one nagging worry

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          By Peter Bills

          Published:25 February 2007

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          This was the match that had everything. History, emotion, drama,
          physicality, pain, hurt... you name it, it was there. And long, long
          before the end, Ireland had established a psychological supremacy that
          may take their great foes years to overcome. England were forced to
          confront their own failings long into a dark, wet Dublin night.

          Ireland had welcomed their guests with decency and honesty - and then
          they smashed them physically. And the 82,000 voices they had to roar
          them on their way at Croke Park simply turned up the emotion and
          decibels just that little bit extra.

          And as if Ireland needed any more assistance to make their day of
          days, the heavens opened and the rain poured down, like Guinness from a
          tap. It could not have gone better for Ireland.

          Mind you, there was so much more belief, an altogether greater
          desire about Ireland than England ever managed. There was a tigerish
          intensity about every-thing the men in green did, as if they had buried
          the demons that had kept them out of the game for so long against the
          French a fortnight earlier.

          This match, no, this occasion, for that it palpably was, had fired
          Ireland like a spark on a flintlock. They were simply too strong, too
          emotionally empowered for England even to hang on to their coat-tails.

          What we saw was the conclusive proof that it is Eddie O'Sullivan's
          side who will now go to the World Cup this year as the chief
          challengers from these isles. Had they played with this belief, this
          ferocious intent and determination, never mind accuracy, against France
          they would be on the verge of their first Grand Slam for 59 years,
          instead of the Triple Crown.

          The sadness of their season is that they will reach the end of it
          knowing that they threw away their Six Nations Holy Grail in one moment
          of lapsed concentration at the end of that epic game with France.

          Few teams in the world could live with Ireland in this mood. But why
          on earth didn't they play in this great vein against France two weeks
          previously? That is the nagging question that goes to the heart of this
          Irish team, and which O'Sullivan will be pondering. When the chips are
          truly down, they sometimes mess up. And teams with aspirations for the
          World Cup cannot let matches slip away.

          England found themselves facing a human torrent of pride and emotion
          last night. The great stadium simply rocked at half- time when they
          left the field, and the Irish team deserved every bit of their ovation.

          In one-on-one tackles they were vastly superior, physically stronger
          and mentally tougher. There was no time for England to play, no place
          to avoid the hammeri


            Nick Townsend: Sublime Saturday takes its place in Irish legend

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            Visitors fail exam on the pitch after history lessons off it on an emotionally charged day

            Published:25 February 2007

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            England's players had received lessons on what occurred the last time
            their compatriots set foot within the spiritual home of Irish
            nationalism, and how the pitch had ended drenched with Irish blood.
            Yesterday, 87 years on from that date, the last time there were English
            boots on that soil in the shape of the atrocity committed by the
            despised Black and Tans, Brian Ashton's team were given a rugby
            education which will not be comfortably forgotten.

            Sport always sits uncomfortably within the context of politics and
            bloody history. Though it was gratifying to witness England emerging
            from the tunnel in the Hogan Stand, named after the Tipperary captain
            who was one of the victims of the so-called Bloody Sunday, there will
            be a special satisfaction at this overwhelming triumph on an evening
            when Ireland took stock, after Jonny Wilkinson and Ronan O'Gara had
            traded early penalty kicks, before asserting themselves magnificently.

            Until the hosts inevitably eased down in the second half, England
            had no response to the manner in which their talismanic captain Brian
            O'Driscoll's sheer presence inspired his men to exhibit the zenith of
            their powers, both physical and visionary. Even before yesterday's
            fourth successive victory over England, one bookmaker was already
            paying out on an Ireland Triple Crown. Regarded as foolhardiness
            incarnate beforehand, by the end he appeared the sage of Dublin.

            Ashton, the England head coach, who had directed Ireland's fortunes
            for 13 months a decade ago in a period which he would not count among
            his most distinguished days' work, stressed immediately before the game
            that, despite the promise of home victories over Scotland and Italy,
            "the challenge is to step up two or three levels". If anything, this
            was a step backwards, as England underwent a ruthless reality check.

            Playing international sport requires the sensitive and intelligent
            handling of a variety of circumstances, and England have known intense
            hostility before, of course, but perhaps none of their players had
            experienced this kind of emotional crescendo once the game kicked off.
            Curiously, the atmosphere appeared to have overcome the hosts as much
            as Les Bleus in their previous game. But yesterday with O'Driscoll
            restored to the side after injury, and in masterful mood, Ireland
            channelled that passion to their advantage.

            David Strettle, the England debutant, made his presence felt
            immediately, after Ireland had targeted him early on with some aerial
            balls, before he was the recipent of Shane Horgan's elbow into hi


              Jonathan Davies: Green giant O'Connell the Croke commander

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              Ireland's finest hour is a blend of brawn and brilliance

              Published:25 February 2007

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              You can go on about your O'Driscolls, your O'Garas, your D'Arcys, who
              knows, one day, your Strettles even. But on nights like yesterday's in
              Dublin they are merely the icing. The cake is made up by the vital
              ingredients of the O'Connells and the Easterbys.

              The former at last put his giant hand up once more, while the latter
              made a good fist of everything he touched as England were reduced to
              Audley Harrison status in a first-half that a kinder sport would never
              have let them get up from.

              Between them, the Munster lock and the Scarlets blindside
              encapsulated the immense effort of the Irish forwards. Believe it, this
              was a triumph that was first earned by the undervalued in the engine
              room and then by the officer class lording it on the deck.

              Of course, team efforts are produced by marrying the brawn with the
              brilliance. And in the green back line there is plenty of genius.
              Girvan Dempsey's try was superbly executed, Ronan O'Gara's kick to
              Shane Horgan was precision in studs and Brian O'Driscoll was his usual
              peerless self. It's just that Paul O'Connell's influence in the
              line-out and Simon Easterby's omnipresence in the loose were what
              essentially carved out this victory in the early stages.

              What singled out O'Connell for my own man of the match award was
              that his magnificence transcends the traditional duties of the
              second-row forward. He was everywhere as he restated just why he was
              the only northern hemisphere player named on the shortlist for last
              year's IRB Player of the Year award.

              I was part of the panel who selected him and, just like everyone who
              knows the shape of a rugby ball, never once doubted that he would come
              good in 2007. How comforting it must be for a back row to have him
              assisting them with the hard yards.

              Not to say that Easterby, or the equally superb David Wallace, need
              any help whatsoever. They, and yes, the whole of the Irish pack,
              blended discipline with ferocity into a giddying mix that effectively
              gave England absolutely no chance.

              It was particularly galling for the visitors because that is where
              they had hoped at least to gain parity. But the English pack's
              intensity just wasn't there and so, palpably, neither was their
              execution. Their backs will inevitably come in for a bit of stick as
              well, but I'm not sure that is fair.

              Jonny Wilkinson was part of the inside channel which was cut to
              smithereens but that was more the fault of his back row. An opposing
              pack knowthey are doing something very right when they see the openside
              substituted at half-time, like Magnus Lund was yesterday.

              He proved the lucky one, however


                Tim Glover: Memo from the fans: Can we have our game back?

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                Fans and players suffer at hands of the TV schedulers

                Published:25 February 2007

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                The BBC like to regard the Six Nations as a movable feast, which is
                just as well, considering it can take place any time between lunch and
                a late supper. The impression is that the television companies say,
                "Jump" and the rugby authorities ask, "When and how high?" This would
                help to explain a collection of kick-off times that are bedevilling the
                game and making the lives of players and spectators, not to mention the
                Fourth Estate, a waking nightmare.

                The start times for the major tournaments are designed to suit not the
                sport but the television schedules, and he who pays the piper gets to
                whistle any old tune. Yesterday's Six Nations programme saw Scotland
                against Italy at 3pm, Ireland-England at 5.30pm and France versus Wales
                at 8pm GMT, 9pm local time. It will be all change again for round four
                in March.

                One of the attractions of the Six Nations used to be that followers
                could enjoy a weekend in a great city, echoing the sentiment of the
                troubador Max Boyce: "I was there". There were signs at the Stade de
                France last night that many Welsh supporters were not there because it
                had simply become too anti-social. "Anything for the weekend, sir?"
                Anything but a kick-off that eventually gets you into the heart of
                Paris in time for nothing more than a midnight snack.

                The French television station FR2, the host broadcasters, decided
                that a 9pm start was peak time for their audience. The Six Nations is a
                flagship event for the BBC - their contract runs to 2009 - and last
                year they boasted record viewing figures. They have a huge say not only
                in when matches start but whether they should be played on a Saturday
                or Sunday. Test rugby is often a sort of loss leader to keep viewers
                hooked for subsequent programmes.

                "At the outset the Six Nations committee puts forward a schedule,"
                says a BBC spokesperson. "We make comments about what suits us and the
                feedback is collated." The bodies who run professional rugby equate
                income from television with manna from heaven, even though the
                broadcasters need the game as much as the game needs the money. It's a
                seller's market, but you would never have guessed it.

                If the Six Nations has been manipulated, the Heineken Cup, covered
                by Sky, has been shoved from pillar to post. "Of course broadcasters
                have a say, but what we put together is something that works for
                everybody," says Derek McGrath, the chief executive of ERC, the
                organising body of the European cups. "That means happy clubs, happy
                fans and a game that looks good on TV. Nobody wants to be pushed into a
                slot that's not attractive."

                Happy clu



                  Leading article: The victory of Croke Park

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                  Published:25 February 2007

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                  On this side of the Irish Sea, it is perhaps difficult to see what all
                  the fuss was about. Wasn't this just another Six Nations match? Another
                  excuse for a weekend's jollity in Dublin, where the hospitality ranks
                  second to none, and the Guinness is so, so good? On that side, though,
                  it has looked rather different. The Irish - never slow to navel-gaze -
                  have embarked on an orgy of self-examination, with more column inches
                  and more hours of airtime devoted to an international sporting contest
                  than ever before. It is no exaggeration to say it has split families,
                  and pitted friend against friend. It has sometimes seemed a battle for
                  the very soul of the nation.

                  Why? On Sunday, 21 November 1920, during Ireland's fight for
                  independence, the notorious Black and Tans arrived at Croke Park, the
                  scene of yesterday's game, when Dublin and Tipperary were playing
                  Gaelic football. They came with vengeance on their minds, for that
                  morning Michael Collins, the Irish rebels' leader, had overseen the
                  assassination throughout the city of 14 British spies and their

                  A red flare dropped from an aircraft above the ground shortly after
                  kick-off was the cue for revenge. The British opened fire, and, within
                  minutes, 13 civilians and one of the footballers - Michael Hogan, after
                  whom one of the stands is named - were dead. It became Bloody Sunday,
                  Ireland's first.

                  Until this year, Croke Park, one of Europe's most magnificent
                  stadia, has been the preserve of Ireland's national games, Gaelic
                  football and hurling. The Gaelic Athletics Association had long shunned
                  foreign sports, but two years ago finally decided that rugby and soccer
                  could come.

                  With that decision, the stage was set for yesterday - the return of
                  the Brits to the scene of one of their most heinous deeds. So who could
                  deny the controversy, both over the game and, more especially, over the
                  playing of "God Save the Queen"? Who could deny the emotion yesterday
                  of a people rightly mindful of their often turbulent history?

                  Yesterday, though, is testament to the remarkable, forward-looking
                  nation that is modern Ireland. So much has changed even in 10 short
                  years and yesterday marked a huge shift - intangible perhaps but no
                  less definite for that - in the relationships between the British
                  people and their neighbours, their friends, the Irish. Slainte!




                    <h1>England are blown away by the power and verve of O'Driscoll's men</h1>

                    Ireland 43 - 13 England</font>

                    Kevin Mitchell
                    Sunday February 25, 2007
                    The Observer


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                    tensions at the home of Gaelic sports were all rugby-related in the
                    end, the sometimes laboured but undeniable weight of history put to one
                    side as Ireland gave England a record 30-point larrupping, the sort
                    that leaves scars.

                    Ireland blew it against France, in the very first
                    rugby match at this historic ground, but they were hugely impressive in
                    every department here. Only occasionally did their concentration lapse,
                    and their commitment never did. The lasting image, though, was one of
                    enterprise and confidence. Despite what some of their England
                    detractors were saying earlier in the week, this is an Ireland team to
                    take very seriously.<div id="spacedesc_mpu_div"><hr><a name="article_c&#111;ntinue"></a>
                    Ronan O'Gara had one of his better games for Ireland, Jonny Wilkinson a
                    much quieter time behind a beaten pack. Brian O'Driscoll returned with
                    a vengeance, Gordon D'Arcy was too slick for England, as the backs ran
                    with unfettered verve. In the forwards, Paul O'Connell and Donncha
                    O'Callaghan were immense, urged on by the fox-like Peter Stringer, who
                    bossed Harry Ellis most of the afternoon. That's four wins in a row for
                    Ireland over England now - the sort of history we ought to be talking

                    Irish hospitality lingered a few moments past the respectful reception
                    of the anthems, when they infringed at the breakdown and Jonny
                    Wilkinson accepted the gift of a long penalty. But for the remaining 38
                    minutes of the half, England were turned and punished relentlessly.

                    was never going to be about one celebrated fly-half, though. Ronan
                    O'Gara, whose presence is more commanding by the match, is probably the
                    finest field kicker in the game, and he showed all his tricks here.
                    Early on he targeted England's left flank, where young David Strettle
                    was making his debut.

                    Strettle is dangerously quick and elusive.
                    Twice in the first quarter of an hour he gathered O'Gara's hanging
                    chip, beat his man and made ground for the next phase. He also looked
                    composed in snuffing out a promising Irish rush down his flank with a
                    crash tackle.

                    Andy Farrell, an older 'new boy', held on in the
                    ruck and O'Gara struck his second penalty from short range, bang into
                    the middle of Hill 16 - and who thought we would ever see such a thing?

                    rain and a faint breeze wafted over that end, famously built from the
                    rubble of the Easter Uprising - but you can bet all the drenched
                    supporters there were thinking of was how Ireland were steadily
                    grinding down England up front. With the aid of O'Gara's educated boot,
                    England were under constant pressure.

                    When they did make it
                    across the halfway line, Ireland stole the line-out and ran it back at
                    them. England struggled again at the next throw-in, and O'Gara put his
                    team six points clear.

                    Up to this point it had been boringly,
                    effectively attritional. Something rather more entertaining arrived
                    with a bright incursion down the left by Gordon D'Arcy, which Denis
                    Leamy embellished with a storming run to within inches of the line. At
                    the ruck, Danny Grewcock could not resist tampering with the ball on
                    the Irish side and was sent to the bin.

                    From the next scrum,
                    Ireland spun it wide, through D'Arcy's flick and Brian O'Driscoll's
                    flat pass to Girvan Dempsey, who was almost celebrating halfway through
                    his dive over the line.

                    The crowd sang 'Alive, Alive-o!' and,
                    with Ir



                      <h1>Player ratings</h1>

                      Sunday February 25, 2007
                      The Observer


                      <div id="GuardianArticle">GIRVAN DEMPSEY FULL-BACK: 8

                      a threat with his strong running, positive under the high ball and on
                      hand to finish off the first try. A barnstorming game for Ireland.

                      SHANE HORGAN WING: 8

                      and direct as ever, more inclined to try to run through his opposite
                      number rather than around him. Timed his runs from the wing adroitly. A
                      grand try.

                      BRIAN O'DRISCOLL CENTRE: 8

                      Busy, fast and
                      well-nigh flawless, the Irish captain was an inspiration, as ever. Here
                      his ability to relax his side must have been crucial.GORDON D'ARCY CENTRE: 8

                      Showed deft hands and awareness when
                      setting up the first try. Always seemed to have an extra half-second
                      over his opponents. Powerful, too.

                      DENIS HICKIE WING: 5

                      Most of the action was on the other wing, so he was the most anonymous of the back division. But never a hindrance.

                      RONAN O'GARA FLY-HALF: 8

                      when he kicked at goal and canny when he kicked from his hand,
                      exquisitely so when he found Horgan for the third try. The difference
                      between him and Wilkinson? O'Gara's been doing this for the past three

                      PETER STRINGER SCRUM-HALF: 8

                      Flung passes
                      left and right and they always found his man. With this back line
                      behind him, the need to make many breaks is small, like Stringer.

                      MARCUS HORAN PROP: 7

                      So Ireland might be vulnerable in the front row? There was no evidence of that, so Horan must have had a good game.

                      NEIL BEST HOOKER: 6

                      For an hour was full of energy and commitment and he always seemed to find his man in the line-out.

                      JOHN HAYES PROP: 6

                      Irish front row may have been targeted by England, but the visitors
                      could make little impact; on occasions the Irish tormented them. Busy
                      and alert in the loose.

                      DON O'CALLAGHAN LOCK: 6

                      Made his contribution to a massive performance from the Irish pack. Strong in the line-out, vigorous in the loose.

                      PAUL O'CONNELL LOCK: 9

                      in the line-out, where Ireland were crucially disruptive, and not too
                      bad elsewhere either. Another inspiring performance.

                      SIMON EASTERBY FLANKER: 7

                      A demon in the loose, where much of his best work is rarely seen in the stands or - occasionally - by the referee.

                      DAVID WALLACE FLANKER: 7

                      Effervescent and even inventive in the wet and a powerhouse to boot. Unstoppable yards from the line for the second try.

                      DENIS LEAMY No 8

                      powerful runs that hurt England - one led to Grewcock's yellow card.
                      Strong and solid under the high ball. An awesome performance.


                      Flannery 62, S Best 70, M O'Driscoll, N Best 69, Boss, P Wallace, Trimble (73).


                      OLLY MORGAN FULL-BACK: 5

                      under the high ball in malign conditions - floodlights, drizzle, then
                      proper rain in the first half-hour, after which he had to retire

                      JOSH LEWSEY WING: 5

                      More visible in defence
                      than attack and was as reliable as ever, although he could not prevent
                      Horgan's try. Saw little ball. Perhaps he should hunt for it.

                      MIKE TINDALL CENTRE: 6

                      Made some forthright tackles, bulldozed as best he could in another wholehearted effort, but seldom a threat in attack.

                      ANDY FARRELL CENTRE: 5

                      by opponents who made him look cumbersome at times. There was no time
                      for his cunning passes. One interception saved a try.

                      DAVID STRETTLE WING: 8

                      under pressure early on by O'Gara



                        <h1>'The score suggests we got a right hiding - and we did'</h1>

                        Vic Marks
                        Sunday February 25, 2007
                        The Observer


                        <div id="GuardianArticle">Eddie
                        O'Sullivan is not one of the world's great smilers, but admitted to
                        being 'a very, very, happy man' after Ireland's victory over England.

                        suffering a sickening defeat two weeks ago against France, his side now
                        have a good feeling about their latest home. 'We had to get our head
                        around the defeat and we were of the singular opinion that this was our
                        last game until next year here at Croke Park and it was important to
                        leave with a win,' he said.<div id="spacedesc_mpu_div">
                        <hr><a name="article_c&#111;ntinue"></a>
                        O'Sullivan may not have required a win of record-breaking proportions
                        to make him happy, but that is what he got. Typically his response was
                        calm and considered.

                        his demeanour was not radically different to what was on display two
                        weekends ago, but he was fulsome in praise of a team who were more than
                        the equal of their opponents and, more crucially, the occasion.

                        thought we controlled the game for 70 to 75 minutes,' O'Sullivan said.
                        'We were clinical in difficult conditions and were able to give our
                        backs some space. It was a solid performance all round.

                        'For the
                        first 15 minutes the two sides were shadow-boxing for most of the time,
                        but then we got into it. I was surprised that we won by that margin,
                        but we managed to score two tries when [Danny] Grewcock was sin-binned.
                        It was a controlled performance all round. The Six Nations is an
                        intense competition, but that was a pretty complete performance over 80

                        Paul O'Connell, a towering presence in the Irish pack,
                        expressed relief after the game. 'We wanted to do the occasion
                        justice,' he said. 'Two weeks ago we didn't, but we did today.

                        played clever rugby for most of the match. We had a bad period at the
                        start of the second half, which woke us up, but we dominated the rest
                        of the half.

                        'We are all working our socks off in the pack at the
                        moment and the harder you work, the easier it is to find your form.' No
                        question that the Irish found their form yesterday.

                        Brian Ashton,
                        the England coach, was not in a position to argue with that and was
                        candid in defeat. 'The scoreline would suggest we got a right hiding -
                        and we did,' he admitted. 'I went into the Ireland dressing room and
                        told them they completely outplayed us.

                        'I'm very disappointed. I
                        said how we made mistakes against Scotland and Italy and that we'd need
                        to go up two or three gears if we were to beat Ireland. But we didn't
                        do that and were punished by a side that was sharper than we were. They
                        were more physical and fresher.

                        'They were better up front. I
                        thought their forwards played very well. They scrummaged better than in
                        previous games and when you have a line-out like theirs, you're well on
                        your way.

                        'I don't feel embarrassed or humiliated,' Ashton added. 'I feel there's a lot of work to do, but we already knew that.'</div>



                          <h1>O'Connell soars on day of England high anxiety</h1>

                          Eddie Butler
                          Sunday February 25, 2007
                          The Observer


                          were two ways Ireland could have reacted to defeat here against France.
                          Either they let their heads drop, wounded by another grand slam gone
                          a-begging. Or they responded with a sense of liberation, with an avowal
                          to put themselves back on track immediately. No prizes for guessing
                          what happened.

                          This, after all, was England. At Croke Park, complete
                          with 'God Save the Queen'. God help England, more like. Ireland were
                          inspired.They made a poor start, as is their wont, a habit they have been trying
                          to break for at least two years. Somehow, they cannot begin a game of
                          rugby without slapping themselves in the face. This time it was a ball
                          that came back down to earth untouched, or even unclaimed by anyone
                          wearing green. Such a simple mistake. Why would nobody even call for
                          the ball? Jonny Wilkinson set England off to a perfect start.

                          as poor starts go, it was not that bad. With cheeks stinging by the rap
                          delivered by captain Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland immediately pulled
                          themselves together. They threw line-out ball to Paul O'Connell, who
                          rose to the occasion. If he started the Six Nations sluggishly, at the
                          midway point he is soaring.

                          Ireland put the squeeze on the
                          England line-out. It had the effect of making the visitors nervous on
                          their own throw, especially when two consecutive throws were stolen.
                          And that was just among the forwards. Anxiety spread down the line.
                          From twitchiness at the set piece, England began to look nervy at the
                          breakdown. Ireland's start was now an enterprising middle period:
                          confidence in the three-quarters complementing the work of the forwards.

                          for the first time in his volatile career, Danny Grewcock was the
                          public face of England's growing uneasiness. It was not the worst thing
                          he has ever done, but when he was caught offside at a ruck, following a
                          sweeping Irish move from deep, it meant his team were deprived of his
                          services for an all-important 10 minutes.

                          When the second row
                          departed, England trailed by six points. When he returned Ireland were
                          20 points ahead, authors of two tries that confirmed their return to
                          top form, and underlined the fact that England's revival is in 'mini'

                          Even before the end of the first half you could sense the
                          storm that was gathering around Andy Farrell. He delivered a couple of
                          sweet passes, but his pace, for the first time, was exposed. Gordon
                          D'Arcy on the other side was outstanding, a leg-pumping, arm-ripping
                          irritant on the back foot, twinkle-toed on the front. Brian O'Driscoll
                          was sublime, even when limping with an injury that could lead to
                          another break in his Six Nations.

                          If there was a good piece of
                          news for England in this drubbing, it was the play of David Strettle.
                          To make a debut in this majestically welcoming but immensely hostile
                          environment was tough enough. He responded however to the shower of
                          balls with an eye for adventure and a show of pace that promises better
                          things on kinder days.

                          Josh Lewsey, as it is almost needless to
                          say, battled to the very end. But for each minor plus point in white
                          there was an avalanche of positives in green. Shane Horgan ran and
                          leapt for his try like the skilful giant he is. Denis Hickie slipped
                          his frame in and out of tackles and slipped the ball away even more
                          cleverly. This was not just about ferocity and passion, but about
                          technique and confidence in tight spaces.

                          There was just a moment
                          - other than the opening penalty - when England gained something. At
                          the start of the second half they painstakingly pieced together some
                          movements, and Stret



                            <h1>England Croke</h1><h2>England received a warm welcome from the Irish fans at Croke Park, who revelled in a record 43-13 defeat for Brian Ashton's team</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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                            LATE LAST evening, all that was left of rugby’s first season at Croke Park
                            were workers carrying bags of litter from the periphery of the pitch. By
                            then, most of the debris had been cleared and England’s battered team had
                            been mercifully taken away. At 43-13, a record defeat in the championship
                            for the visitors, it was as much a massacre as a match. Just the way the
                            Irish wanted it.

                            It was the most absorbing occasion and a quite brilliant Irish performance.
                            The home fans and their team arrived at the Gaelic Athletic Association’s
                            (GAA) fine stadium to deal with one of the older enemies and to help bury
                            the ghosts of history. They nailed the ghosts and buried the men in white
                            jerseys. All week, the talk in Ireland was of moving on to a new, better
                            future. This morning the future will seem like the promised land.

                            Four tries to one hardly tells the full story of Ireland’s dominance, nor of
                            the ferocity of the battle and the excellence that the home team achieved in
                            wet and difficult conditions. But, there it was, a scintillating Irish
                            performance, and elsewhere a first ever away victory in the championship for
                            the wonderful Italians at Murrayfield and France impressive in winning a
                            fine match against the Welsh. Never has the RBS Six Nations Championship
                            seemed so alive, so thrilling.

                            England coach Brian Ashton can be excused for not sharing in the joy that
                            vibrated in Dublin. How often does an England team concede 43 points in a
                            match? From Ashton, there was straightforward honesty: “They [Ireland] were
                            sharper, fresher, fitter. We were beaten all over the pitch. It was a
                            reality check for us. We were stuffed.”
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                            Like turkeys. And there were no excuses from any in the England camp. “We just
                            didn’t turn up,” said Mike Tindall. “You can’t play like we did in the first
                            half and expect to win Test matches.” England trailed 23-3 at the interval
                            and it could have been worse. But we speak too much about a game when this
                            was far more than that.

                            There was a surreal atmosphere around Croke Park, for this had always promised
                            to be one of the greatest occasions in Irish sport. Two hours before the
                            game, it was barely possible to get to the bar in any of pubs on Dorset
                            Street, close to the ground. The big


                              <h1 ="ing">O’Connell shows England still have mountain to climb</h1><h2 ="sub-ing padding-top-5 padding-bottom-15">Ireland 43 England 13</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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                              What is one rugby squad against a nation, and against a reverberating

                              This was a truly magnificent occasion, gilded by the spectacle and the
                              sportsmanship of the wonderful arena that is Croke Park. And gilded also by
                              a outstanding Irish team, driven on by the power of the revived Paul
                              O’Connell up front, and by what was almost the perfect fly-half game by the
                              circus ringmaster, Ronan O’Gara.

                              England were stodgy, they were simply blasted out of the contest by a team
                              that had more devil, more pace, more organisation and more firepower and it
                              took some decent England defending in the final 10 minutes to stop the score
                              reaching close to an embarrassing half century. This result in a marvellous
                              and sweeping game catapults Ireland back into contention for the RBS Six
                              Nations title and catapults England back into the mire.

                              England’s midfield play was horribly stodgy, and it was left to young men such
                              as David Strettle and Mathew Tait to show odd flashes. At least Martin Corry
                              and Josh Lewsey showed some appetite but Jonny Wilkinson was either not fit
                              or way off form.
                              <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."->

                              No doubt, misguided Rugby Football Union officials were already whining last
                              night that this debacle came about because Ireland have more training time
                              and their players are fresher. Utter rubbish. All the players on the field
                              have played roughly the same number of games and the disjointed, shapeless
                              performance of this England team suggests that England’s coaches need to use
                              their time almost infinitely better, to prove their contention that they
                              deserve more.

                              England’s problems are entirely, absolutely of their own making and if they
                              try to shift the blame to anyone else it will be appalling.

                              The tone of an evening of exemplary sportsmanship was set as early as the
                              second minute when Wilkinson, completing his preparations in total silence,
                              put England on the board with a penalty. It was also a significant moment
                              since it was practically the only good thing that happened to England in the
                              whole half.

                              Ireland’s ascendancy had small beginnings, with two penalties by O’Gara.

                              O’Connell had already pilfered two England throws and he was an inspirational
                              figure as Ireland began to turn the screw. They scored on the half-hour
                              after O’Driscoll and D’Arcy conspired effectively for the first time and an
                              Irish attack burst into life. Easterby almost made the line with a powerful
                              diagonal run, and then as Ireland rucked furiously for the ball, Grewcock
                              came around the edge and killed the ball. It was a penalty and a sin-bin.

                              Ireland blasted on. They went for the drive-over try after the inevitable
                              lineout catch by O’Connell, but with the referee playing advantage because
                              England dragged the maul down, Ireland nearly whipped the ball wide, D’Arcy
                              passed delightfully both blind a