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29th Jun 2023

Mack Hansen and Ronan O’Gara feature strongly in best quotes of the rugby season

Patrick McCarry

Mack Hansen

“He’s got the mind of an elephant, Johnny.”

Over on Rugbyrama, site for the Midi Olympique newspaper, two characters of Irish rugby featured in their round-up of quotes of the rugby season. You may not be too shocked to hear Ronan O’Gara and Mack Hansen are lauded for their honesty, and ability to crystallise their thoughts.

First up was Ronan O’Gara, who spoke from the heart after his La Rochelle side were well beaten by Pau in the Top 14. The Munster and Ireland legend told reporters:

“The solution is quite easy to find: look in the mirror and understand the word humility. We put our values ​​in the bin tonight… It weighs on me a lot, mentally.”

The other gem they plucked was Mack Hansen adding some spice to an upcoming Ireland vs. England Grand Slam decider in the Six Nations.

“Everyone hates England, in general! It’s something I was aware of before coming to Ireland.”

Inspired by that, we went back through the 2022/23 season to find some of our own favourite, and most striking, quotes. There are some absolute gems in there.

Tadhg FurlongTadhg Furlong during an Ireland rugby media conference at the IRFU High Performance Centre, in November 2022. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

Our favourite rugby quotes of the season

In September 2022, there was woeful news about Worcester Warriors as they went bust and were removed from the English Premiership. Steve Diamond, Warriors now former director of rugby, took to social media to lament a hammer blow to a club founded in 1871. He declared:

‘This is the darkest day for English rugby. We thought we could turn the tanker around but it’s ended up like the Titanic, sadly. The ship has sunk, the captains are nowhere to be seen.

By the end of the season, sadly, Wasps and London Irish would follow them down that dark road.

Back in November, Munster ran in three first half tries – through Shane Daly, Diarmuid Barron and Simon Zebo – in a pulsating first half against South Africa ‘A’, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. They started the second with a Paddy Patterson-driven break that ended up with a Mike Haley try, which sealed victory.

Virgin Media caught up with Patterson after the game and the Munster scrumhalf delivered an all-timer:

“It’s some craic! All we wanted to do tonight was play a bit of ball and, f***, we did that. F***, I’m delighted. Delighted.

“Today, we felt the pressure was off,” he added, “so we just went out there and had a crack. We went out there and we did that so f***ing delighted.”

“The pack fronted up, Jesus,” exclaimed Patterson. “Some of those hits that were going in were insane… I knew with [fans singing] Zombie at the start that it was going to be special. So it was f***ing, I’m delighted!”

‘All I can say is you bunch of frickin’ sods, mate!’

Tadhg Furlong told reporters he never even dared dream of one day becoming Ireland captain. As he prepared to lead his side out against Fiji, last November, he was asked what he did dream about, when he was younger:

“Spuds, gravy, the mother’s Sunday roast.”

Back in December, Joe Marler was named man-of-the-match after his Harlequins side defeated Bath. He had a decent game but suspected the accolade was ‘a token thing’ to get him in front of the BT Sport cameras.

“I know your secrets,” he teased. “Because there were other players that were better tonight but they are not happy to talk on camera, so this is just a fraud, basically.”

Ireland rolled from the summer 2022 Test Series win over the All Blacks into a winning November run and ended up as 2023 Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

We caught up with Kiwi reporter Martin Devlin on his New Zealand radio show and told him how tough it would be selecting an Irish World Cup squad.

“All I can say is you bunch of frickin’ sods, mate! We’re sitting down here and actually struggling to think who is going to be in our squad…

“You’ll be laughing at this, because in between World Cups, the All Blacks have always been the best team, but this time we aren’t. That’s you now – you’re the favourites heading into the World Cup. It’s not a title that sits easy, though, is it?”

The Irish players going around, on their Grand Slam celebrations tour, all ended up at the house owned by Garry Ringrose’s parents, and this classic exchange, involving proud Cork man Peter O’Mahony, was caught on camera:

“Pete, this is South County Dublin!”

“I’m getting some ****ing tour of the place!”

Mack Hansen

Mack Hansen on Johnny Sexton’s elephantine memory

During those celebrations, Mack Hansen was reminded of a tattoo bet he had made earlier in the Six Nations campaign.

“It was like a bit of a started off as a bit of a joke – like passing comment that if we won a Grand Slam, I’d get Faz’ [Andy Farrell’s] face put on me somewhere. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, right’ or whatever.

“And then, like nine weeks later, Johnny Sexton brought it up and remembered. So he put it to me and I guess, as a man of my word, I’ll have to get that as well!.

“I should have known. He’s got the mind of an elephant, Johnny. They’ve got good, good memories, don’t they? Elephants never forget.”

It was another tough season for the Ireland Women’s senior team, as they finished bottom of the Six Nations and ended up on the look-out for a new head coach. It was better in the Sevens, though, as the women’s side qualified for their first ever Olympics.

“It means so much,” said captain Lucy Mulhall. “We do it for our families. Rugby has become a family and then all of families have joined it… I’m just so glad that we could make them happy.”

A week later, back in the men’s game, Munster stunned Leinster in the United Rugby Championship semi-finals and Peter O’Mahony dead-panned, “I think we have a trip to South Africa now, have we?” before focusing his praise on young Jack Crowley, the drop goal hero and match-winner:

“Jack had the balls to knock it over, so here we go”

“Look, f*** it, some win, in fairness”

Another week after that and the Leinster under-strength URC semi-final gamble back-fired as they lost in the Champions Cup final to La Rochelle.

There were words exchanged in the tunnel, at half-time, and Johnny Sexton had some thoughts to share with referee Jaco Peyper after the game, but we’ll focus, instead, on this Ronan O’Gara insight on cup final team selection.

“There’s so many fellas gutted. This week was horrible because there’s only 23 that can play, and I’ve got to front those conversations, not the assistant coaches. That takes energy. You’re essentially knifing a guy into the stomach, saying, ‘I don’t have a place for ya’. So, everything he stands for, all his self belief, all his values, you’ve probably just destroyed in 10 seconds of hurt. That hurts me, that hurts him, but we try to make sure that everyone gets a shot.”

Munster ended the season as URC winners after beating the defending champs, Stormers, in a Cape Town classic. One of the star men for Munster was Cork native, John Hodnett. On the pitch, Hodnett was polished and close to perfect.

In his post-match interview, though, the back-row proved he has a thing or two to learn yet. With captain Peter O’Mahony by his side, Hodnett declared:

“Yeah, look, f*** it, some win, in fairness.”

As we wrap our 2022/23 musings, we look ahead to a 2023/24 season that has a World Cup, early doors, and ends with Ireland competing in the men’s and women’s Sevens events at the Olympics.

This one comes from Ireland winger, Jordan Conroy:

“We’re off to Paris, baby!”

You, and the rest of us, Jordan.


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