Hasn’t it been some transformation? Isn’t there some difference between the Ireland team of today and the overtrained, squabbling, factional rabble who crashed and burned in France during the 2007 World Cup?
Now we have a team that hangs together, with players who fight for each other instead of trading punches in the dressing room. For me, nobody exemplifies this better than Brian O Driscoll, who has reinvented himself as a humbler, more respectful man, and a courageous player willing to give everything for his team-mates.
This is a team where everyone has earned his place, and everyone knows there’s somebody at his shoulder ready to move in. Not only that: it’s a team where everyone accepts that he must fight for his place and step down if he doesn’t perform.
I think we all agree that the uniting factor has to be the new manager, Declan Kidney, who brought Munster to two Heineken Cup victories, and who has imbued the Ireland team with something of the same all-for-one ethos. No more preening mannequins. No more Munster versus Leinster with a token Nordie thrown in for politics sake.
Despite all that, I don’t know who’ll win this afternoon and I won’t even try to predict the outcome. Wales are formidable opponents and we must show them respect.
While I’m on the subject of respect, Welsh supporters have made a great tradition of coming to Limerick to watch internationals and they have always been the best of supporters, welcome wherever they go. I hope that somebody will explain this tradition of respect to the Welsh supporter I witnessed yesterday evening pissing on the floor of my local pub.
Note to Newport Gwent Dragons supporters. There are two things we disapprove of here in Limerick: making noise during a penalty kick and pissing on our floor. This is something we tend to frown on.