Ronan O'Gara comments about facing England at home remain true as ever
No game means more.
Ronan O'Gara played England 14 times in his Test career and came out on top more times than not. Having lost two of his first three encounters with England, O'Gara went on to win eight of the next nine in a green jersey.
His career record against the old enemy is won eight, lost six. At Lansdowne Road, he finished on the winning side on five occasions and endured three losses. Ireland, with O'Gara at outhalf, could not prevent England winning a Grand Slam in Dublin, in 2003, but they did in 2011.
In March 2017, on his debut on The Hard Yards, O'Gara outlined just what Ireland will need to stop England's winning run, of 18, dead in its tracks.
Eddie Jones was bringing his England team to Dublin with another Grand Slam in sight. O'Gara looked to men like Rory Best, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Rob Kearney - to name just four - to set the standards for their teammates to follow. He also identified the one player this game was custom-made for:
"Sean O'Brien is a gem. It's games like this... this is what he stands for."
And so it proved. O'Brien, teamed up with Peter O'ahony and CJ Stander, tore into the English and starved them of time and space. O'Mahony dismantled the English lineout and O'Brien was a demon at the breakdown, with Iain Henderson scoring the game's only try in a 13-9 victory.
Henderson is out of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations opener but Joe Schmidt may start with that O'Mahony-O'Brien-Stander back row combination again.
One thing is certain in his mind, home advantage will be a massive boost to Ireland's chances. O'Gara says:
"It's not really 15 against 15. It's 15 against 50,000. The power of the supporters should never be underestimated, especially for our country. That's what separates us. There's an incredible bond between [Irish] players and supporters."
He continued, "This is a weekend on which you get measured and they won't be found wanting... It'll be a sad day if England out-desire Ireland in the Aviva."
Powerful words from O'Gara, who will be on punditry duty for Virgin Media for the February 2 game.
*Updated from article first posted on March 16, 2017