There is a Native American parable that tells the story of a great chief commencing the warrior training of his grandson. The wise old chief tells the boy that there are two great wolves inside the mind of every warrior. One is a nurturing, creative, positive and proud wolf. The other is a cruel, toxic, destructive and evil wolf. These two alpha wolves rage a constant battle for control of the warrior’s mind.

The young boy pauses to think, then asks: “Which wolf wins?”

The ancient warrior smiles at his grandson and gives the obvious answer.

“The one you feed.”

For 18 months this Irish team have been feeding their toxic wolf. Self-doubt, blaming others, making excuses, low aggression and a lack of accountability have all provided sustenance for the big, bad, wolf inside their heads. Body language does not talk, it screams, and if you watched Ireland’s play over the past year, you could hear their slouched bodies yelling at the universe: “I don’t believe we can win.”

The Irish pack erupted into a back-slapping, howling at the moon mass of energy balls

Against Wales, when the game was in the balance during the second half, Ireland were defending their try line. They produced a heroic series of tackles that forced a Welsh five-metre scrum. At the scrum Dave Kilcoyne drove the Welsh tighthead prop, Dillon Lewis, into the turf and won Ireland a match-defining penalty.

The Irish pack erupted into a back-slapping, howling at the moon mass of energy balls. The backs rushed to join the “love-in”. Scenes not witnessed since Ireland put New Zealand to the sword in 2018. You could see the tension and pain of 2019 begin to drain away from the Irish players.

Caution is required here, as Ireland’s rehabilitation is not yet complete and they are nowhere near the standards of 2018, but they have begun to rediscover their self-belief. When self-belief emerges, aggression becomes as tangible as a wolf.



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