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Six Nations: Ireland will play it cute to slam England

By Niall Crozier

Cuteness is a noun and cute an adjective that do not crop up too frequently in discussions as to how international rugby matches might be won or loss.

But centre Gordon D’Arcy uses each in his assessment of Ireland’s chances of upstaging England this evening at the Aviva Stadium (5.00) when the sides bring the curtain down on their respective 2011 RBS Six Nations campaigns.

He and captain Brian O’Driscoll will be up against rookie pairing Shontayne Hape and Matt Banahan in midfield and it is here that D’Arcy believes Ireland hold the aces.

Bath’s Banahan — a second row forward in his time at the London Irish Academy — is in for injured captain Mike Tindall (ankle). It is only his second start at 13.

“We’ve got to rely on our cuteness around the field and maybe seeing those little things that a new centre partnership wouldn’t necessarily see,” is D’Arcy’s view of the situation.

“It’s very hard to give you specific examples because the game is going to roll, it’s going to evolve, it’s going to grow depending on the time in the match, the score, where things are.

“But Brian and I — and not just us — will be looking to exploit, not a weakness, but somebody new. You wouldn’t say there are any weaknesses across that England team, but maybe the continuity wouldn’t be there. In fairness, Banahan (pictured) got 40 minutes in the last game (against Scotland on Sunday) so he’s got plenty of game time there. We won’t be expecting any gifts but I think if we do get them we’ll be cute enough to take them.”

D’Arcy also feels that how Ireland relate to New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence will be important. Last weekend, of course, the Irish were victims of a poor decision which cost them seven points against Wales in Cardiff where they lost by a six-point margin.

D’Arcy is adamant that Ireland must forget about that injustice, put it behind them and move on.

He is admirably philosophical about the episode, saying: “If we dwell on that it’s just going to eat away at us. Nothing is ever going to change that result.

“In 10 years time when I’m looking back on that with my family they’re going to go, ‘You lost to Wales’. They’re not going to know that there was a decision that changed the flow of the game.

“And you never know — we could have not given away that try but then given away two more a little bit later. Life’s just like that sometimes.”

He recognises the importance of staying on the right side of the referee today, too.

“How we play the referee is going to be quite key. We got the balance reasonably well against Wales.

“We have to be very, very aware of referees because they are the guys bossing the breakdowns. We’ve got to get the balance right so we’re not giving penalties away,” D’Arcy stresses.

“We gave away penalties against France that kept them in the game. They beat us, though we played all the rugby. So we’ve got to bring what we learnt against the French into this English game.

“We’ve got to contest at the breakdown but not give away penalties in doing that. If we get the turnover, great; if we don’t we’ll have slowed them down enough.”

l THE lucky winner of the Belfast Telegraph’s Guinness Competition is Ivan McStea, 62 Sunningdale Park, Belfast BT14 6RW.

He won two tickets for today’s Ireland-England game after correctly answering, like many others, that Stephen Ferris plays for Ulster.

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