TWO YEARS ON from the St Patrick’s Day scrum massacre at Twickenham at the Irish scars have yet to fade.
Declan Kidney’s men were destroyed at he scrummaging set-piece and Tom Court was cut adrift for two months after the prop replacement for Mike Ross was tormented by Alex Corbisiero. Ireland lost 30-9 at England’s HQ and have not beaten Stuart Lancaster’s men in two attempts since.
Last February, Conor Murray told TheScore.ie that England were coming to Dublin to ‘beat us up’. The contest was a feisty one in the 2013 Six Nations and Ireland gave as good as they got until England gave better. A 12-6 home loss was the beginning of the end for Kidney as Ireland eventually finished fifth.
Speaking today at Carton House, Rory Best used the ‘beating up’ analogy again to stress how physical an examination Ireland will face on Saturday. He defended Court, his provincial teammate, as Ulster’s starting loose-head who came in for Ross after 25 minutes and had the tough task ‘of stopping a scrum that was already going backward’.
While tight-head prop Dan Cole [neck injury] will miss the remainder of England’s campaign, Best pointed out that Bath’s David Wilson got valuable game time at the weekend. He said, “The scrums will be massive. Two years ago, to put it mildly, we got beaten up there. Ultimately, it cost us the match.
“It will be no different this weekend. They’ve a very good scrum and no matter who they get in, whoever takes Dan Cole’s shirt, they are going to be very tough. It will take a lot of homework to make sure we are on the money there to break them down.”
Best remarked that forwards are always keen to stress how important the set-piece will be to deciding the destiny of a match but does not believe anyone can argue with its import this weekend. “In the last couple of games,” he said, “that is what England base their game on and pride themselves on. Their scrum has gone well, their line-out has been exceptional. We know we need to, at worst, match that.
“If you want to win games, especially away from home, we have to be dominant up front. It’s a massive challenge for us, arguably the toughest, but one, as forwards we look forward to.”
Best is well aware of the fact that England pulled the rug from his team last year as the momentum of a big win over Wales was lost on a rain-sodden day in Dublin. He said, “Whenever you got to the Six Nations and you get a good start, everyone starts talking about ‘Oh, this could be the year we finally repeat winning Six Nations and Triple Crowns’. The problem with losing to one of the home nations early on is that it is not just the Grand Slam but the Triple Crown that is gone.
“Last year was very disappointing. We had a lot of the stats but that’s just another example of the fact that stats don’t win games. You need to be clinical and you need to take your chances… we weren’t good at that.”