We in England are Ireland’s truest friends in rugby

England's Chris Ashton celebrates at the final whistle after beating Ireland in the Six Nations in Dublin on February 2. Photo: �INPHO/James Crombie
England's Chris Ashton celebrates at the final whistle after beating Ireland in the Six Nations in Dublin on February 2. Photo: �INPHO/James Crombie

There is some truth in what my friend Robin Bury writes (‘Nationalism and sport is interwoven, and the foundation stone of the Irish nation is anglophobia,’ February 4) but not, I think, the whole truth.

My abiding memory of Ireland v England matches is that of the first I attended in the company of Rob Davies, vice captain of the great Dublin University team of 1968 with its array of Old Campbellians and Old Portorans.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

I remember Duckham’s famous try on his first appearance for England in that match and the victory of Ireland by 17-15 with Tom Kiernan’s winning conversion from the touchline (if only Barry McGann had done that in 1973 against the All Blacks).

Above all I remember the wonderful support for Ireland from 32 counties.

I then thought that if our rugby players could unite in this way why not our politicians? They have still to learn lessons and above all to learn the generosity that has sustained us through hard times (I think of Nigel Carr in 1987).

We in England are Ireland’s truest rugby friends.

We played Ireland at Twickenham on 12 February 1972 within days of Bloody Sunday, losing 12-16 to Kevin Flynn’s (Wanderers) famous try at the very end.

We lost all our matches against Ireland from 1972-1976.

In 1975 I watched our scrum disintegrate from the terrace at the Wanderers end in the company of a future Primate of All Ireland (a fanatical Old Wesley supporter now ensconced in Armagh).

But we turned up on 10 February 1973 as Scotland and Wales had not done in 1972.

And on Saturday we turned up. For the first time I wore my English jersey to watch the match in the Ballsbridge Hotel.

As always the Irish were gracious and generous in defeat, an unexpected and unwanted defeat (to me at least).

I send my best wishes to Trevor Ringland (remember him at Murrayfield?).

I urge the English to come as equals in future with an English not a British anthem and to go to Cardiff and Edinburgh with an English not a British anthem.

England is England, not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Had the matter been left to our rugby players we would have reunited Ireland in 1970.

Dr Gerald Morgan, Dublin (Fellow of Trinity College Dublin; Leader English Parliamentary Party, 2001)