Stuttering start but 2019 can still be golden year for Ireland

It would be fair to say that as anti-climatic and disappointing as last Saturday in the Aviva was, it hardly constituted the sort of crisis and crossroads Irish rugby was looking at the last time we played and lost an opening Six Nations game to England, writes Kieran Shannon.

In fact it was so long ago since Ireland were previously paired against their oldest enemy in the first round of the competition, the tournament was in its first year being known as the Six Nations.

The same day Italy debuted in the top tier of European rugby with a magnificent 34-20 home win over Scotland, Ireland and head coach Warren Gatland suffered a far greater humiliation than the Scots did in Rome, as Clive Woodward’s England ran in six tries against them in a 50-18 pummelling.

Of course, as it transpired, that 2000 nightmare in Twickenham was the darkness before the dawn. A fortnight later Gatland gambled famously on youth and the Munster factor and it handsomely paid off, as the rookie quintet of O’Gara, Horgan, Stringer, Hayes, and Easterby, along with a recalled Mick Galwey, inspired Ireland to their first win over Scotland in 12 whole years. A month later and a 21-year-old Brian O’Driscoll was scoring a hat-trick of tries in Paris, a place Ireland hadn’t won in over 28 years.

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