The Six Nations is upon us and when Ireland take on Wales on Saturday afternoon a rivalry will be resumed that, if anything has grown over the past few years.
With Lions places up for grabs there will be an added spice to this year’s fixture as Ireland seek to atone for three straight losses against their Celtic rivals.
Wales 15-Ireland 17, 21st March 2009
2009 in Cardiff will long be remembered by Irish rugby fans but it could have been a different story had Stephen Jones managed to convert his late penalty. He didn’t and Ireland reached the promised land of their second ever Grand Slam.
Ireland should have been out of sight entering the last ten minutes after surging to a 14-6 lead but some sloppy play combined with referee Roman Pote relentlessly penalising Ireland meant the Welsh led with five minutes to go.
Cue the most extraordinary endgame possible, a fitting way to end 68 years of hurt.
Ireland 21-Wales 7, 15th March 1980
While our last three encounters with Wales have gone disastrously the preceding years were bountiful, winning nine of the first twelve Six Nations encounters.
This sort of dominance was not always the case and when Ireland welcomed Wales to Landsdowne Road in 1980, they had not defeated the Welsh in a full decade.
Although a dire first half left the score at 0-0, Ireland exploded into life in the second half and cantered away from Wales to run out 21-7 with Ciaran Fitzgerald, John O’Driscoll and David Irwin all scoring to end a truly miserable run of results against the principality.
Wales 22-Ireland 10, 8th October, 2011
A World Cup semi-final would have been a fitting reward for a career as great as Brian O’Driscoll’s.
Out of contract at the end of the season and making noises this week about the distinct possibility that this will be his last Six Nations, it would appear that this opportunity has passed.
If there was ever a chance for Ireland to reach a World Cup final, it was 2011. After sensationally beating Australia in the pool stages, Ireland had two games against Six Nations opposition to reach the showpiece.
Confidence was high before the game as the rugby public held genuine belief that Ireland could dispatch a Welsh side that on paper didn’t look as strong as Declan Kidney’s team.
Tactically outthought and outfought this was harrowing stuff as Ireland appeared rudderless and inept against a Welsh game plan clearly aimed at stopping the Irish ball carrying threat that had been so effective against the Wallabies.
Ireland 3-Wales 0, 19th March 1894
After beating England at Blackheath 7-5 thanks to a last minute drop goal (worth four points at the time) from captain Edmund Forrest, Ireland then defeated Scotland 5-0 at Landsdowne Road to set up a Triple Crown encounter with Wales in Belfast.
Due to the river Lagan overflowing the day before, the pitch was in a disastrous condition and Ireland duly played a tight, forward based brand of rugby.
A fierce hailstorm battered the 6,000 fans in attendance for the duration of the match and with scoring opportunities at a premium, it was no surprise that Forrest asked local forward John Lytle to have a go at the posts from 10 yards inside the Welsh half. Lytle duly obliged and sent the ball through the uprights from the sodden surface.
This score was all Ireland would need to claim their first ever international honours.
Ireland 6-Wales 3, 13th March 1948
Going into the final game of the 1948 Championship at Ravenhill, Ireland had already claimed the Five Nations through beating both France and England away from home while putting the Scots to the sword at Landsdowne Road.
Ireland as it had been the case so many times before would play Wales for the Triple Crown and a Grand Slam.
In 1905, 1911,1926, 1930, 1931, 1931, 1936 and 1947, Ireland faced Wales in the last game with a Triple Crown on the line and in every single one of these instances the Welsh prevailed. Once again the Welsh came to town hoping to dash Irish dreams as they had done so many times in the past.
In front of an overly full Ravenhill, Ireland went some way to evening the score against their old rivals. The first half was split evenly with a try apiece from Barney Mullan and Bleddyn williams.
The decisive score came early in the second half, Wales with a defensive scrum in their own 25 lost control of possession allowing Bertie O’Hanlon to hack the ball on.
Welsh full back Frank Trott was unable to gather and London Irish prop J.C Daly won a remarkable foot race to touch down over the line. Ireland’s pack duly dominated after this and controlled the game to claim a remarkable victory and some measure of revenge against the dastardly Welsh.