I like Kiwi Lamb in my Irish Stew
In Australia, rugby fans are giddy with excitement at the prospect of the three tests against the visiting Six Nations champions Wales, leading into the first ever Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations).
However, as rugby fans, we should also be aware that there will be another epic feast of rugby across the ditch, when the world champion All Blacks take on the might of Ireland.
I hope to see Kiwi lamb cooked perfectly in a hearty Irish stew!
Although I am all for the ANZAC traditions and value our Kiwi cousins (all 53,000 of them who move here per annum and have made the Gold Coast a diplomatic pocket of South Auckland), I will not cheer for them against the men from the emerald isle.
Approximately 30% of Australians, around 7 million, claim Irish heritage when it suits them. And I am one of these, ensuring I will be draped in green come kick off.
Although the Welsh are the current Six Nations champions, Ireland will be no pushover. If anyone saw the recent Heineken Cup final between Leinster and Ulster, I would be surprised to hear anyone argue that Irish rugby isn’t strong.
This coupled with a solid 2011 Rugby World Cup performance and a squad that possesses both a blend of youth and experience, the series promises to be fast, physical and entertaining. The Irish squad contains names such as Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Andrew Trimble, Johnny Sexton and the impressive Keith Earls.
A rock hard pack boasting Sean O’Brien, Rory Best, Mike Ross and Donnacha O’Callaghan ensures that the Irish will be more than competitive against the world champions even if Munster legend Paul O’Connell is eventually ruled unfit for the tour.
The match-ups I most eagerly anticipate are Richie McCaw v Sean O’Brien, Brian O’Driscoll v Conrad Smith, Rob Kearney v Israel Dagg and Mike Ross v Tony Woodcock. My rugby head says New Zealand will win the series but there is the optimist Australian in me that prays for at least one Irish test win.
I don’t believe the All Blacks will be suffering any hang over from the 2011 Rugby World Cup and will be looking to go to England 2015 with a 100% defence rate of the William Webb Ellis trophy, commencing with a series defeat of Declan Kidney’s men. However, as Australia learned in 2011, never underestimate Ireland.
I trust the ghosts of Ned Kelly, Peter Lalor and Ben Chifley will be cheering on the Irish, with the rest of the other 7,000,000 Irish/Australians, when they take on the All Blacks and the 4,500,000 New Zealanders they represent.
About now I am expecting to hear chants of ‘convicts’! Our kiwi cousins are often quick to remind us that we are the convicts and they are the free settlers and they are right!
But – and this is despite me cheering for Ireland – there’s no place I’d rather be.
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