Rugby

The Time An Irish Second Row Wanted To Amputate His Finger To Play In The Six Nations

The Time An Irish Second Row Wanted To Amputate His Finger To Play In The Six Nations

If we get this sort of commitment out of the Irish team today then Joe Schmidt's side are sure to leave Twickenham with their first away win since 2010. When people think of Gary Longwell's Ireland career, no strong memory probably sticks out. Between 2001-2003 he was regularly picked in the team and ended up winning 26 caps.

Leo Cullen talked in his book about the pain on losing out on a World Cup spot to Longwell in 2003, which shows how highly regarded the Ulster second row was by Eddie O'Sullivan at the time.

An anecdote contained in Tom English's brilliant oral history of Irish rugby, 'No Borders', highlights just how tough Longwell was and the crazy length he was prepared to go to to represent his country.

Back in 2003, Ireland were due to play Wales in the fourth leg of a Grand Slam tilt. Longwell picked up an injury in training before the match and... well, maybe hear it from the man himself.

"The next game was Wales in Cardiff. At training on the Tuesday my finger got caught in Reggie Corrigan's tackle suit and there was a crack but I thought it would be alright. It was a bit sore afterwards and the doctor sent me for an X-ray. The guy came in and said there was a problem. I said, 'I can still play' but then he squeezed it and it was agony and he said no way was I playing. So I asked him to amputate it, but he said he wouldn't do it. You hear people saying they would cut off their right arm to play for Ireland and that's the way I felt. It was the first thing my wife said when I told her I couldn't play, 'would you not just cut if off Gary?' But they wouldn't let me do it."

What?!?!?

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There is having pride in the jersey and having pride in keeping all your fingers! Fair play to Longwell but in the interest of player welfare it is for the best that the doctor overruled him. Hopefully Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan channel that sort of passion into their on-field performance today.

The second row will be a crucial battle with England looking particularly strong in that area. Maro Itoje will make his first start and the Saracens behemoth has been one of the form players in Europe this season. Alongside him is George Kruis, who has also performed well while waiting to enter the game from the bench is the destructive Courtney Lawes, so a big test for the Irish locks.

It will be interesting to see what sort of impact the powerful Ultan Dillane will have on his debut if he is brought on. There probably won't be any amputated fingers but there'll certainly be many battered bodies.

Watch: Argentina's New Super Rugby Team Highlighted Everything That's Wrong With The Six Nations

Read: Johnny Sexton Answers George Hook Advice That He Should Retire

Will Slattery

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