Ireland look to boost Triple Crown hopes with museum-worthy win | Ireland national rugby union team

Of all bucket list destinations there a trip to the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham may not be the first choice of all Irish citizens. Which is a shame. Yes, there are some sepia images of old England heroes with huge mustaches, but all fans of Saturday’s big game will also discover some important emerald-tinged artifacts.

There is the shirt, for example, worn by Irish striker Harold Sugars in his country’s first international match against South Africa in 1906, when Sugars scored two tries but Ireland still lost. There’s also a tribute to evergreen (in every way) Mike Gibson while Noel Murphy’s jersey from the 1959 Lions tour of New Zealand, with the jagged holes inflicted by matching All Black studs, doesn’t no need for additional subtitles.

The exhibit that really resonated the other day, however, was Moss Keane’s proper old moss-colored shirt. Because it was Keane who featured in the 1982 Twickenham game that even now, 40 winters later, is remembered by Irish rugby fans of all faiths and walks of life as the crucial stepping stone to the first Triple Crown of their team for 33 years. The economic depression in Ireland was dishearteningly deep, and with unemployment rampant, spirits in Ireland were at rock bottom. Hence the excitement, with the great Ollie Campbell in his pump, when Ireland went to Twickenham and won 16-15, with Gerry ‘Ginger’ McLoughlin scoring the decisive try.

That night, Keane went out for a few beers in Camden Town, still dressed in his evening suit, and didn’t have to pay for a drink all night. At one point he came across an exiled builder, one of the legions forced from their homeland to work across the Irish Sea. “Moss, it’s such a shame to see a big chunk of a man like you wasted playing that old rugby,” his new friend said. “You’d be a great man to power a cement mixer.” As told in No Borders, Tom English’s masterful first-person story of Irish rugby, Keane was forever struck by the number of displaced Irish workers residing in north London whom he depicted whenever he put on a green shirt. “I always thought of them when I was against England.”

Which, in addition to the history-bound emotions invariably aroused whenever England take on its Celtic neighbors, helps explain why Irish visits to Twickenham always have a distinct rattle and buzz about them. At times, the home of English rugby has been dreadful ground, which is why the glory days stand out loud and clear. Simon Geoghegan’s 1994 try, for example, gave Ireland their only victory in south-west London in 22 years until 2004, when the new world champions were upset at home for the first time since 1999.

More recently there was Shane Horgan’s tiptoe nudge to ruin Ben Cohen’s day in 2006 and the indelible memory of another flying green winger, Tommy Bowe, cutting irresistibly, with seven minutes to go. play and his side trailing, to pick up another emotional Irish victory. in 2010. The only other subsequent Championship victory, however, came in 2018 when an in-form Jacob Stockdale helped dominating Ireland to a deserved grand slam that left England languishing in fifth place in the table. championships, his worst result in 31 years.

In short, history would say that conquering the fortress of Twickenham, whatever the circumstances, is a hallmark of consistent quality for any self-respecting Irish side. The same goes for the triple crown. Johnny Sexton was interviewed the other day after his team lost in Paris and revealed he was eager to win the latter, having only done so once (as part of the Grand Slam 2018) during his 13 seasons with the team.

The Irish strikers fend off Gerry McLoughlin’s try in the 16-15 win over England at Twickenham in 1982. Photography: Colorsport

England, too, have only managed to overpower the other three nations at home twice during Eddie Jones’ seven-season tenure, showing just how hard-fought the Six Nations continue to be. With France now regularly reappearing as a global superpower, it also reinforces just how difficult the championship can be to win, even in a good year. Especially if you wear white and everyone hates you.

This week, however, the boot feels slightly on the other foot. Ireland beat New Zealand last fall and have the most stable side. It is Ireland who also seem the most cohesive unit, as their players are centrally contracted and in many cases able to play alongside each other for Leinster on a regular basis.

And it is Ireland that, in some ways, seeks to make the biggest statement. Win well and all roads will lead straight to Rugby World Cup 2023. Buckle under, against an England side that have stalled lately, and it will not only shatter any lingering title hopes, but raise questions as to whether further research and development might still be needed.

Either way, it will be seriously physical, with the hand of history on the shoulders of every green giant. For ‘Ginger’ McLoughlin and Moss Keane read Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan, keen competitors for whom a 2022 victory at Twickenham would be both a respectful nod to the boys of 1982 and a prized museum piece. The landscape of rugby has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, but some things never change.

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