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Brian O'Driscoll: The three moments that swung Ireland-England in our favour

Brian O'Driscoll says Ireland's win over England was the best yet under Andy Farrell and believes...


Brian O'Driscoll: The three moments that swung Ireland-England in our favour

Brian O'Driscoll says Ireland's win over England was the best yet under Andy Farrell and believes three moments particularly stood out.

It was by no means all plain sailing for Ireland, as O'Driscoll looked to get what pleasure he could from an opening English salvo.

"I even really enjoyed the first 15 - 20 minutes where Ireland weathered England's storm. Three or four minutes into the game I thought 'uh-oh, we're in trouble here again' with the physicality that they brought.

"They had some really good initial kicks from both Youngs and Ford, they squeezed pressure, their defence looked big, they turned us over, pushed us to the sidelines a couple of times and I just thought 'oh no, here we go again...'

Brian O'Driscoll: the breakdown

"In that 15 minutes, there were three pivotal moments that changed the course of the game," O'Driscoll said.

"We always talk about the Six Nations and test match rugby - the fine margins and momentum. For me, these were huge momentum moments in the game.

Maro Itoje 20 March 2021; Maro Itoje of England during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"The first was [Maro] Itoje being held up over the line, where they went for the flat ball - almost a bullet in the head at one to the prop - but Itoje catches it. Tadhg Beirne jumps across, they pile over and Billy Vunipola should have been able to secure the ball and it should have been a try.

"We were probably lucky that Tadhg Furlong didn't give away a penalty as well, but then we got a penalty from the ensuing scrum. That was moment number one."

Pivotal moments

"Moment number two was from Robbie Henshaw, where he stopped [George] Ford on a driven line-out; he stopped Ford from offloading to Watson and he's gone. That is a try and that is going to be 8/10-0 and there is a different complexion on the game.

"The third moment was a minute later. Robbie Henshaw, for me, was head and shoulders above everyone else. Tadhg Beirne is in the conversation, but [Henshaw] was outstanding.

"People should go back on this and watch it again if they have it: his ability to read what is happening and react to it is like nobody else in our team. His tackling is equally good.


Brian O'Driscoll on Henshaw

"He tackles Johnny May, and then realises that there are five backs stuck over in the 15-metre channel. So he works to the far side of the pitch where England go again.

"He makes a big impact on Ollie Lawrence, then Conor Murray wins a shoulder on Vunipola and we get a penalty for neck roll. From that penalty, we go up the pitch and score Keith Earls' try.

"That just shows that you've got to soak pressure and soak pressure; take it, and then counter-punch. That is exactly what we did and then the momentum that we built from the Earls score were the building blocks for the rest of the game."

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Brian O'Driscoll England Henshaw Ireland Leinster Munster Robbie Henshaw Rugby