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Why Is Ireland's Record In Twickenham So Much Better Than In Paris?

Why Is Ireland's Record In Twickenham So Much Better Than In Paris?

Following Ireland's victory in Twickenham in 2010 - which arrived a fortnight after our fourteen-month (12 games) unbeaten streak ended in Paris - George Hook claimed that Ireland can tolerate losing to France 'but we don't like losing to England'.

For more on Ireland/England, including Stephen Ferris' preview of the big game, listen to The Racket:

Considering that an admittedly depleted Ireland side have just fallen to one of the most uninspiring French teams ever assembled, it's worth examining why Ireland's historical record is so much better in London.

Here are the numbers. Since 1970, Ireland has won eight times at Twickenham (72, 74, 76, 82, 94, 2004, 2006, 2010) compared to just three times in Paris (72, 2000, 2014).

What can account for this? After all, for much of this period, England have dominated France in the head-to-head matches.

In the Eddie O'Siullivan era, the mini-tournament between the three teams would usually yield two points for each. Ireland would lose to France, beat England, and then watch England beat France. Wales, the kings of the 1970s, have won seven times in both Paris and London. Scotland have won only twice in each ground, all recorded in the twentieth century.

In an era of professionalism and scientific preparation and marginal gains, it seems quaint that old-fashioned tribalism should be decisive.

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Is it, as George Hook suggested, down to naked tribalism? During even years in the 1980s and 90s, Ireland travelled to the Parc des Princes for their biennial battering. In ten Five Nations matches in Paris between 1980 and 1998, they managed three tries and one of those was a penalty try.

During even years in the 1980s and 90s, Ireland travelled to the Parc des Princes for their biennial battering. In ten Five Nations matches in Paris, they managed three tries, one of them a penalty try. And while they shipped some hammerings in RFU HQ (1988, 90, 92), victory always seemed a greater possibility.

Mick Galwey, who played in the one-point win in '94, agrees that tribal ferocity may have played a part in Ireland's comparatively decent record in Twickers.

There probably is, to be honest. I won't say we had a fear going to Paris. But we never had the same belief. We always felt, deep down, we'd have a good crack off the English if we got in among them. That was our attitude at the time. Yes, you had to be focused and you had to put your gameplan in place. But there was always a bit of madness there and if you were able to control that madness you had a chance. But you weren't going to beat them tactically, you had to get in among them.

Stephen Ferris, speaking to the Racket today, suggested that England's 'arrogance' fosters a desire to shut them up. Alex Corbisiero's puffed-up scream of 'welcome to the house of pain!' in 2012 (Read about here) sticks in his mind.

Everybody loves to beat the English. Is it because they've got a bit of swagger and that think they're better than everyone else? I don't think so. They're a good side. It's just the kind of arrogance that they might have. It's good to get one over on them.

Read more: 'I Just Thought, What An Absolute Twat!' - Stephen Ferris On Facing England In 2012

 

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney