England and Ireland have stoked the fires of a fierce rugby rivalry over the years and on Sunday they will be set to renew their competitiveness when they clash for the 136th time, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
The two European powerhouses first faced each other back in 1872 and have since achieved great success in what is today known as the Six Nations.
Head to head it is England who lead the race with 78 victories, while Ireland are stuck on 49 with eight encounters ending in draws.
We look back at five classic Six Nations clashes between the two countries:
2000: England 50-18 Ireland (Twickenham)
Till this day it remains the record score between the two teams and England’s thrashing of Ireland at the start of the new millennium was one of the first signs of what would become a very successful few years under Clive Woodward. The match featured names such as Jonny Wilkinson, Neil Back, Ben Cohen, Mike Tindall and Matt Dawson, all players who played in the 2003 World Cup final, which England won. The experience of Mike Catt was also instrumental for England that day at Twickenham, proving a difficult customer at inside centre for the Irish defence. England put Keith Wood’s team to the sword in every department and humiliated them on their way to the Six Nations crown.
2001: Ireland 20-14 England (Landsdowne Road)
The 2001 edition of the Six Nations was affected by an outbreak of a highly infectious and deadly disease, the foot-and-mouth virus, in the UK. It led to travel restrictions across the four countries and as a consequence Ireland’s matches against Wales, Scotland and England were rescheduled for September and October that year. Ireland and England squared off in the final match of the competition with England all but having secured back-to-back titles. Despite the disruptions they’ve endured in the process, Ireland ended a six-match losing streak against the English that day in front of a capacity and roaring crowd at the famous Landsdowne Road in Dublin, thanks to a very spirited performance. Wood inspired his team to one of the great victories in Irish rugby history at a time when it almost seemed impossible for them to beat England.
2003: Ireland 6-42 England (Landsdowne Road)
If there were any doubt about England’s chances of winning the World Cup at the start of 2003, the Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Dublin certainly created a strong favourites tag for Woodward’s team from that day on. Martin Johnson and England became consistent with comprehensive victories in the competition that year and Ireland was the final victim of a third Six Nations crown in four years for them. They were simply ruthless in every facet of the game and ran away with the match in the second half to complete a clean sweep and add the Triple Crown to their successful campaign.
2007: Ireland 43-13 England (Croke Park)
England coach Brian Ashton described the post-match scenes in the England dressing room as ‘like being in a mortuary.’ It perfectly described what was England’s biggest defeat in 124 years. Landsdowne Road was being demolished at the time to make way for the newly planned Aviva Stadium, which meant Ireland faced England at Croke Park on a rainy and cold afternoon in Dublin, but in front of 82,000 fans with the majority desperate to hand England a big defeat. Brian O’Driscoll led his team to do exactly that as Ireland scored four tries, while Ronan O’Gara’s boot kept adding points to the scoreboard. England had no answer for Ireland in what was preparation for the World Cup to follow in France later that year. The big win was Ireland’s fourth consecutive one in the Six Nations over their rivals as England’s wheels began to fall off.
2018: England 15-24 Ireland (Twickenham)
Ireland went into the encounter as Six Nations champions having already secured victories with three bonus points from four wins in the previous matches, while England were eager to avoid them claiming the Grand Slam at Twickenham. It was the first year since Eddie Jones took over as head coach that England didn’t win the Six Nations and they were in for a stern test of character against a rampant Irish side on the final day. Three brilliant first-half tries by Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale sent Ireland firmly on their way and solid defence meant England were never able to get back into the game.
Photo: Tom Hevezi – PA Images via Getty Images