What ho, Englishmen!
Martin Samuel is one of my favourite sports journalists; or at least, he was when he wrote such erudite columns for the Times. Now at the Mail, he has had to rather dumb down his act to appease the earthier tastes of lower middle-class England (and he focuses far too much on oikball) but he retains an uncanny knack of cutting through the poppycock and avoiding the kneejerk self-flagellation so common amongst certain Englishmen. I suspect this is because Mr Samuel is an east London Jew whose slight distance from traditional Englishness paradoxically leads him to a much clearer appreciation of just how jolly decent the English really are.
Mr Samuel was not impressed by the rabid anti-Englishness he encountered in Dublin:
After a week of Irish glory and glorification at Cheltenham and two very jolly days in Dublin to follow, many Englishmen would have felt the bond between our countries had become rather civilised these days.
So it came as something of a surprise to pick up the newspapers on Monday and discover what really inspired Ireland's Six Nations victory over England at the Aviva Stadium: hatred.
Andrew Trimble, the Ireland wing, let this slip, describing a rallying call from lock and most recent Lions captain Paul O'Connell prior to the game. 'I always love listening to him during England week,' Trimble said.
'We wanted to get everything right technically, but we also wanted to use our physicality, our intensity, just a real hatred. We never get sick of beating England; that is why we enjoyed the win so much. There's a lot of history there.'
Indeed there is. Like the European Union's £73.7billion bailout for the failing Irish economy last November, that could end up costing British taxpayers in the region of £6.07bn.
Not many songs about that on Saturday, though, just the usual one about prison ships, prison walls and a terrible famine that took place 160 years ago yet is still thrown in the face of every visitor in an England shirt, as if it was cooked up in the Harlequins dressing room last Tuesday.
Maybe next time Martin Johnson visits he could give a rousing and equally relevant speech before the game based on vengeance for all the little kiddies abused by Ireland's paedophile priests.
Or is it only the English who have entries in the history books of which their modern descendants might be ashamed?
Harsh? Perhaps a little. Certainly, there is a thorougly decent sort of Irishman (perhaps 1 in 4 of them) who does not deserve to be lumped into the "mental Mick" category. But I do think Mr Samuel expresses well just how utterly wearying it is for the English to be constantly confronted with this sort of low-level, chippy, begrudging attitude in which everything they do is perceived through this tedious historical prism. I think we English are far too tolerant of what is, in effect, outright racism.
Consider Nick Easter's ever so magnanimous words in the Telegraph:
We knew Ireland would be up for this one. Of course, they would. God bless the Celts. They all like getting stuck into England. And none of us would have it any other way.
God bless the Celts? What sort of bally attitude is that? It should be God Damn the Celts. No wonder the buggers have beaten us 7 times in 8 games when we take such an indulgent attitude towards them. No wonder David Walsh, writing in the Sunday Times, was moved to comment:
"England's response through the first half seemed to be: "If you guys want it this badly, you can have it""
Yes. That is precisely how it looked. Easter ought to be stripped of the captaincy permanently. It is quite disgraceful for the captain of the England XV to display such lily-livered sentiments.
Of course, the most sickening part about it is that the Irish play like the aggrieved party when it is we who, in living memory, have suffered much more at their hands. Irishmen have murdered literally thousands of British citizens over the past forty years. The British Army killed barely a fraction of that figure, very few of them civilians.
Equally, we all remember the Croke Park match in '07 when the BBC when into over-drive to parrot the republican version of the events of the original Bloody Sunday. We heard all about the disgraceful firing into the crowd on that day - but we heard not a jot about why the British Army was even at Croke Park in the first place, namely to seek to apprehend the bandits who, on that very Sunday morning, had murdered a dozen or so Britons in their beds - in their pyjamas, no less, as they lay alongside their wives - in their hotel bedrooms. That aspect of the story, curiously, has been air-brushed from history.
It is a common complaint of the Irish that the English know nothing of their shared history. I quite agree. I think perhaps Nick Easter ought to educate himself in the barbarous ways of the Irish. I hope to see a little anger the next time England play the Micks.
P.S. A rather heavy post, but one grows tired of hearing Irish players bringing history into it whenever this fixture is played. The history cuts both ways.