DUBLIN, Ireland (AFP) – U2 frontman Bono sought to fire up Ireland ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations clash with England with a pep talk to the squad on what it means to be Irish.
Ireland’s English coach Andy Farrell confessed to “being blown away” by the 59-year-old rock legend’s pep talk at the team hotel on Tuesday.
Bono, who says he is a rugby fan but prefers not to attend matches due to the noise his wife Ali makes, spoke for almost two hours — one hour more than planned.
Three of the starting XV hail from outside Ireland — centre Bundee Aki from New Zealand and hooker Rob Herring and No 8 CJ Stander from South Africa.
The latter, who has been named man of the match in both of Ireland’s victories over Scotland and Wales, was especially impressed.
The 29-year-old Munster star said Bono, whose hits include the 2000 number ‘Beautiful Day’, had given a “great response” when asked what Irishness was.
“Irishness is not something you can put into words, or something you can define, it is not something you tap into, it is something that is in you’,” Stander said, recounting Bono’s words.
“I’m not saying it is in me but I have seen it over the years coming out of players and people. He (Bono) said it is something that comes out when the going gets tough.”
– ‘A proud Irishman’ –
Farrell could seal the Triple Crown in his first campaign in charge of Ireland — he was promoted from defence coach after Joe Schmidt stepped down following the World Cup ending a hugely successful tenure — with victory over England.
The 44-year-old former rugby league and union star had spoken proudly of true Irish grit getting them over the line in an edgy 19-12 opening victory over Scotland.
However, Farrell — whose son Owen will captain England on Sunday — said Bono had added an extra edge to the Irish identity.
“We invited him in and he was top of the wish list and we got the top, which was unbelievable really,” said Farrell.
“He’s quite a private person really but he put a lot of time and effort into being able to answer the questions from the floor in a great manner that we got something out of.
“He’s obviously a proud Irishman.”
The Irish are unusual in the championship in having two anthems — due to historical political sensibilities with the Ulster players and difficulties in singing the Republic’s anthem ‘Amhran na bhFiann’ (The Soldier’s Song).
‘Ireland’s Call’ was introduced at the 1995 World Cup and is the only one sung at away matches.
However, Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale said Farrell had initiated from the start a programme to get the players to feel what it was like to be Irish.
“Faz (Farrell) wants to give us a bit of an identity and he’s doing that through our training but also through things like speaking to Bono,” said Stockdale.
“He talked about Irishness and what it means to be Irish and what is special about it.
“That’s definitely something that Faz in bringing in and it’s something that we as a team are really buying into.”