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Will it be Murder on the Dancefloor or will Ireland burn this Goddamn house right down

By Anna Caplice
Cork , Ireland - 13 April 2024; Aoife Wafer of Ireland during the Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Virgin Media Park in Cork. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ding ding! Round four – London calling!

If you had told me before the tournament had started that coming into preparation week for Twickenham that Ireland would be placed third in the championship I would have been very happy. Well here we are, in third place after three rounds, and guess what – I am very happy.

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The journey so far for Ireland has shown glimpses of greatness and much promise. The girls in green began with an entertaining opening round in France but left Le Mans without any points. Two well-worked and well-earned tries along with a solid defence to build upon were good takeaways.

Unfortunately, the jigsaw pieces didn’t quite come together for the following week versus Italy when Ireland returned to one of three home bases for this year, this time in Dublin. There were more opportunities for attack to strike, but it was at times static and predictable and Italy dealt mostly well with Irish efforts to advance.

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However, the home side struck back and were able to push the visiting Azzurri to the last play of the game to try and take the victory. Alas, a losing bonus point was all the green could muster, but how valuable will it prove to be?

So now, with two tough Ls, one BP and a down weekend for plenty of homework in the bag, what could Ireland produce against a Welsh side coming to Cork looking for their first win of the tournament?

On paper, you have a full-time professional side who have been kicking it with the big dogs in WXV1 this season and who you’d imagine would become pretty robust from the experience, despite coming away with three losses.

Ireland on the other hand were champions of the WXV3, two divisions below what Wales played in, and have been much slower professionalising their programme than all of their Six Nations opposition.

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However, paper is flammable for a reason, and Ireland set the paper, expectations and the game alight with their performance and beat Wales by 36 points to 5. That’s a winning margin of 31 points, only 5 points smaller than the margin when England beat Wales.

The question will be, how much of this performance can they replicate this weekend as all roads lead to Twickenham?

England have put 48, 46 and 46 on the board versus Italy, Wales and Scotland respectively, with only the Welsh able to scope out any points with a try and a penalty. Simply put – England are class.

Defensively as well as in attack. I also reckon you could put all the positions in a hat and have each player pull out a position at random and go ahead and play there and probably still win, such is the skill set and familiarity with their game plan that they display across the board.

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I’ve been tempted to always keep an English hooker on my fantasy team, because you can be sure that with their clinical lineout and tenacious maul, there will be quite a few dotted down from the tail. Alas, it seems that they’ve even become slightly bored of that and want to try out new things.

Their offloading and spreading in attack, varying of options in the forward pods, stepping up to first receiver, and just general chucking around of the ball is the high-risk high reward kind of rugby they have the luxury of playing with. The luxury being, that if at any stage that stops working, they can just resort to their usual kick for territory, down and drive and fall over the line.

However, this new style of play has made England the most penalised team in the tournament so far. A strange title given their usual clinical nature, but why not push the boundaries when winning against most teams is almost a given?

If their high penalty count follows them to the hallowed home of English rugby this weekend, I think Ireland would enjoy that. Among the few diamonds in the rough of Irish women’s rugby over the last year, is the boot of young Dannah O’Brien. Quickly making a name for herself as the most exciting prospect for the ten jersey that Ireland have seen in many years, I bet she is chomping at the bit for England to continue their ill-discipline.

O’Brien isn’t the only one who will be packing her bags for the London trip with utmost impatience, as I expect another young’un in the form of Aoife Wafer will be just as much.

Wafer shot out of the blocks in round one and has continued to impress every week resulting in a Player of the Match performance in Cork in the last round. I can’t wait to see her running around the old cabbage patch up against some of the best in the world.

For me, it’s the combo of the young fresh faces with no fear, alongside the heads and hearts of the older players who have now lived through quite a few twists and turns in the Irish jersey.

Along with the reintroduction of Cliodhna Moloney last week to the squad, came a new energy to this team. A new identity of young and old and unperturbed. A wealth of management experience that is fighting for this group of players to get Irish women’s rugby back on track.

There are 44,500 tickets already sold for Saturday’s game. With a comeback to rival that of Moloney, Sophie Ellis Bexter will be providing the halftime entertainment.

So… Will it be Murder on the Dancefloor? Or will Ireland burn this Goddamn house right down?

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J
Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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