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POLL: Do Irish Rugby Supporters Now Dislike The Welsh More Than The English?

POLL: Do Irish Rugby Supporters Now Dislike The Welsh More Than The English?
By Conor Neville Updated

The evidence from internet forums would indicate that the rivalry between Ireland and Wales is now marked by greater bitterness than the traditional rivalry with England.

In the early days of professionalism, the loser of the Ireland-Wales fixture was usually rewarded with the wooden spoon. Curiously, this was more often the home team. Between 1984 and 2001, only twice did victory go to the hosts.

These days, the Ireland-Wales match more often decides the destination of the Six Nations championship. Between them, Ireland and Wales have won six of the past eight titles.

It's impossible not to notice that this power shift has been accompanied by a marked increased in the levels of spite.

How has this happened?

GATLAND

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The perception in Ireland is that Warren can't pass a microphone without aiming a barb at the Irish. This tendency, the story goes, is a consequence of his harsh sacking by the IRFU back in 2001.

In advance of the 2009 Grand Slam game, he told a press conference that, out of all the teams in the Six Nations, his squad disliked the Irish most.

He added that this was on account of the regular horse-whippings dished out to the Welsh regions by the Irish provinces in the Celtic League and later argued that it was in fact a compliment.

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However, this rationale was unsurprisingly drowned out in the noise generated by the original headline comment that 'the Welsh dislike the Irish the most'.

Since Joe Schmidt took over, he is forever dropping references to Ireland's conservative approach. Phrases like 'limited gameplan' and 'not playing much rugby' fly from his mouth with great frequency.

In response the Irish media have responded with some left-field metaphors, all faithfully re-produced by the Welsh media.

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In 2010, Vincent Hogan wrote that Gatland was as 'snappy as a menopausal warthog'.

Last year, the Welsh press seized on a column by Neil Francis in which he equated Warren Gatland's intellectual prowess with that of a tub of flora.

Wales backs coach Rob Howley issued an almost hurt sounding retort in a press conference. Tony Copsey told reporters that the time had come for him to administer another slap.

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On the day of the game, the front page of the sports pullout of the Western Mail was devoted to a plea to the Welsh players to 'shut up cocky Irish pundits'.

It was reassuring to realise that there is a country that obsesses even more about what foreigners think of it than Ireland.

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THE CELTIC LEAGUE

Ireland is a fallacy Gwyn. Ireland fell into that. It was something always had. They didn't choose it. Ireland's got no idea about professional rugby, in my opinion. They fell into something that had already existed (provincial game).

Stephen Jones

Eddie Butler insists that the Welsh still resent the creation of their makey-up franchise teams, forced on them by the success of the Irish provinces.

In 2002, inspired by the Irish model, the WRU chief executive David Moffett radically re-structured the Welsh domestic game.

In order to compete at Heineken Cup and Celtic League level, they opted to follow Ireland's lead by forming fewer larger professional outfits.

They proceeded to downgrade their historical and greatly loved club teams (Neath, Newport, Pontypridd, Llanelli) to amateur status, reducing them to the status of feeder clubs to the shiny new franchises.

However, emotional attachment does not follow automatically from the flick of a bureaucrat's pen. Apathy has been the order of the day in the Welsh club game for a decade.

By contrast, the smug Irish fell into an existing template which already held the allegiance of the rugby public. This rather ignores the fact that Heineken Cup games were poorly attended in Ireland until Munster's run to the European Cup final in 2000.

The increased support for the provinces was a consequence of success rather than the cause of it.

Despite often treating the Celtic League as a secondary competition fit for second stringers, the Irish provinces have effortlessly prospered in the competition. The Welsh regions have been taking lickings off the provinces for years.

Perhaps, there was a large dollop of truth in Warren's comments from 2009.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ZHkcp8OD0

 

2013 LIONS

In his diary, Johnny Sexton announced that the third test against Australia was one of the proudest moments of his career.

...an unbelievable memory winning my first Welsh cap. One I will remember forever!

In the bus after the third test, Sexton stepped up to the front and belted out 'Don't Look Back in Anger'. On being drowned out by jeers, he launched into 'Bread of Heaven'.

We should perhaps thank Warren Gatland for exposing once and for all the fiction that Irish people care about the Lions tour.

There's no need to go into the details again. Brian O'Driscoll was dropped in favour of Jonathan Davies.

The news was received extremely badly in Ireland.

Welsh pundits largely defended the selection with the notable exception of Andy Howell in the Western Mail who argued that there weren't enough Welsh players in the team.

Many Irish supporters now proclaimed they were supporting the Qantas Wallabies against the HSBC Lions, as the hosts of the Second Captains phrased it.

 

Still today, the forums thrum with hostility. It's not unusual to see Irish posters declare that they now enjoy beating Wales more than England and vie versa.

 

Even the last World Cup, in which Ireland and Wales did not collide, provided evidence of the increased spikiness of the rivalry. Those of us obliged to scour twitter feeds and comments sections detected this easily.

It was noticeable that Welsh commenters were disproportionately prominent among those protesting the narrative that Ireland's crippling injury crisis was decisive in their loss to Argentina.

Read more: Neil Francis Tears Into England's Decision To Appoint Dylan Hartley As Captain

 

 

 

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