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Six Nations: Slamming England’s hopes would be grand for Ronan O'Gara

BY Robert Jones

Ronan O'Gara has admitted Ireland “blew it” against Wales, but is determined that they push England's Grand Slam-chasers to the limit in this Saturday's mouthwatering Lansdowne Road clash.

“From the moment Jonathan Kaplan, the referee, consulted with the touch judge and then awarded the try, it was time to move on,” says the player who started the tournament as a reserve and ends it on the shortlist of nominees for player of |the championship.

“It's right that the IRB examine their protocol at quick line-outs, but you will never eliminate human error. Officials make mistakes and judgment calls, but so do we, the players.

“We have all been there. Bottom line, we had our chances to win that game and blew them. It's well behind us now and we want to bring something to the party again on Saturday.

“That 2009 Grand Slam seems a long time ago now and this is such a huge week for Ireland and the Irish. We need to be a part of it. The Cheltenham Festival over the water is massive for us, it's a big showcase for our horse racing industry and is important as well as great fun.

“Then back home we have all the St Patrick's Day celebrations on Thursday, a national holiday, which probably won't really die down until late on Sunday night, especially if we can give the |country a win to cheer.

“If you cut the hype and look at it objectively, England still have plenty to do.

“They have an away fixture — never easy in the championship — against opponents with a very handy record against them in recent years, six wins in the last seven matches.

“And England have only won once here this century.”

Tomas O'Leary was ruled out yesterday after suffering a freak eye injury in training, meaning that Declan Kidney is likely to name an unchanged team, providing Eoin Reddan's recovery from concussion remains successful.

Meanwhile, England confirmed that centre Mike Tindall sustained ankle damage on Sunday against Scotland and is seeing a specialist to ascertain if he has any hope of being fit to captain the side against Ireland.

Bath's Matt Banahan is primed to continue in the role he filled so well when coming on for Tindall at half-time.

Nick Easter is favoured to take over as captain as he did in the second half.

England scrum coach, Graham Rowntree, believes that the side are well equipped to cope on the leadership front, declaring that the young players who have come through this season have added value on all fronts.

“I think this group are even more ambitious than the 2003 ( World Cup-winning) side,” said Rowntree.

“These guys are very demanding of each other and of us as coaches. I have not seen it before. We give them the menu and they decide how to play.”

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