NOT sure whether Aesop was responsible for this one or not. Frog and Scorpion on one side of the river ? Scorpion says do us a favour and give us a lift across. Kermit says you're joking pal, we'll be halfway across the river and you'll sting me. If I do that we'll both drown Einstein, comes the reply. The frog reckons he has spoken too quickly and readily agrees. The pair are halfway across when the scorpion stings the frog. You thundering gobshite, what did you do that for? Sorry pal, can't help myself, it's in my nature.
Cúpla bhliain ó shin I was playing against England in the championship. I moved up to two in the line and the ball was called to Paddy Johns at the back. Martin Johnson was marking me at the front ? he knew I wasn't getting the ball and I knew he knew I wasn't getting the ball, so we both just stood there and waited for the ball to go over our heads and follow round for the action. As the Gilbert spiralled overhead, my opponent engaged me for a little repas ? elbow du Jonno et un petit fillet de Hip Martínen. He didn't have to step across the line and empty me, not as if he owed it to me. Rather, he just couldn't help himself, nature of the beast.
How was it that England were hustled out of their domain by the Paddies? Not too hard to figure out.
Martin 'Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Ivan the Terrible, Attila the Hun, Fu Man Chu' Johnson wasn't there to import primal fear and take that simple step across the line when the ball came in. The step starts from the front and instantaneously moves down the line. England had ceded bossing rights on the ground ? there were Martins there alright, House Martins.
Johnson was replaced by Steve Borthwick, a capable operator and a guy who has been to the forefront of Bath's revival this season.
The opposition was upsetting his team's the lifeblood of possession at lineout time. It was incumbent upon him to think it out or sort it out, preferably the latter.
I don't put much store in match programme weights but Borthwick was the lightest forward in the England pack at 15st 12lbs.
I've seen heavier foie gras geese, never mind JCT forwards. England's prime advantage over other sides over the years was their big men ? they really missed the punching power of the oft-suspended Danny Grewcock. France have produced Pascale Pape, a 21-year-old maybe, but born near Baskervilles. The kid is a savage. Borthwick looks like he got out of an eating disorder clinic. He missed the Scotland game because of a suspension for fighting but it's not in his nature and he was blown out of the line without retaliation or retribution.
Ben Kay too had a horribly indifferent 80. Kay is a quality player but he ran with the herd last weekend. When England's lineout caller was asked the question, he failed.
Joe Worsley did nothing in a vacuous 60 minutes.
The Wasps player, as Lawrence Dallaglio knows only too well, has a habit of just disappearing when the heat comes on. Neil Back, like Johnson and Jason Leonard will not return ? they must wait for Lewis Moody to heal. As with any break-up of a great team, you can't replace leadership. There are two leaders in that English pack, Richard Hill and Dallaglio. They were swamped by Irish action and English inaction. But, more importantly, their influence was impugned by not being able to work off a really solid front five base.
England really struggled to hoist their men into the air on a couple of occasions letting the lift slip mid-jump ? inexcusable. John Hayes and Reggie Corrigan (failed second rows both, sorry lads) are the best on the ground for two reasons, their concentration during the drill is superb and secondly at 6'4" and 6'2" they have the height and longer levers.
They also lift just above the knee. Quite simply, they get their men into the air much higher and much quicker. It means that when they come up against an erratic thrower like Thompson they don't have too much second guessing to do. Corrigan and Hayes were the prime catalysts, the yeast that can leaven an entire loaf.
Out of the cinders of the Twickenham fire, one question left me a little puzzled. Consider the French game. Ronan O'Gara did what was asked of him in Paris. The ball was put in behind and the French back three had to turn and retrieve. Ireland spent a lot of the afternoon deep within French territory, admittedly without the throw-in. In essence, it was the same game plan ? but two very different results. Simple answer? The French lineout functioned and their back three played a competent game. England?
Well ye all saw what happened.
The task of reinventing Iain Balshaw is undoubtedly an ego trip for the England coach. He was appalling. Ireland still had to score and I reminded myself of what Ireland tried to do in the Grand Slam decider ? choosing to forget about the faction fight up front and going for a bit of bolshoi with the lovely boys ? we all know the result.
But the try Grivan Dempsey scored was still part of the original thought pattern to try and unhinge England. Okay, Gordon D'Arcy's break couldn't be taught, but when the ball came back from that breakdown and went wide on the right, I sensed that Malcolm O'Kelly, Paul O'Connell and Anthony Foley weren't going for the line but for the corner flag to stretch England along the length of the line ? and D'Arcy and Brian McFadden's cut-out passes had more of a preprogrammed look about them than barbarian style rugby finishing. There was real deliberation and sang froid in the execution of that try.
Ireland's captain just about justified his existence with that pass to Tyrone Howe. Icons never get scored below 7/10 ? time to refocus, which I'm sure he will do.
Two plays stood out in Twickenham. In the 63rd/64th minute, England strung together a 12-phase series at the 10-yard line ? they went backwards and forwards on the same line for about two minutes ? train track rugby. They never once got over the gainline and it was only a matter of time before they spilled it. It is a moment rich in irony in that it was the exact same spot where Ireland famously strung together nearly 20 phases to get precisely nowhere in their 50-point thrashing four years ago.
It is a measure of one of the unsung heroes of the match that in the dying moments of the game, when England were knocking on the door and Ireland's weary limbs were just about answering the call, Foley managed to tackle Jason Robinson three times in three separate attacks in exactly one minute ? some achievement.
This team is in dangerous territory ? the nation will expect this every time.