A little under eighteen years after the game itself at the old Lansdowne Road, we revisit a very special OTB Roadshow where the former England captain Martin Johnson sat down with Brian O'Driscoll and Joe Molloy to discuss, among other things, the infamous 'red carpet controversy' of 2003.
Originally published on March 15th, 2018
"Like most of these things, the real story is a little bit mundane".
The story former England captain Martin Johnson was referring to at our National Concert Hall Roadshow in association with Heineken Rugby Club dates back to 2003.
It was the day Ireland played an England side aiming to win a Grand Slam - as the Irish team were also trying to do that year - and while the English managed to achieve that feat, the immediate pre-match moments proved infamously memorable.
Then President of Ireland Mary McAleese had to walk on the grass rather than the red carpet when meeting the Irish team despite England captain Johnson being instructed to move from where he was stationed but refusing to.
"So we got to the stadium and we go out and we walked up on that side and then you (Brian O'Driscoll) won the toss," recalled Johnson. "We went to toss the coin and I was unbelievably tense and you were a relatively young captain for Ireland."
But what happened then as the President arrived on the pitch?
"So we went out and you chose to play that way," he explained. "You attacked the end we walked up. So I just naturally went out on the right hand side because we'd warmed up that side.
"Normally when you play at the stadium, there's a tunnel and there's a changing room on either side. Most stadia are like that. The old Lansdowne was different - both changing rooms were on this side.
"The thing that set it off was the guy that asked me to move was not the referee. If the referee had said to me, 'You're that side', we would have just moved because it wouldn't have been a big deal. It's not a big deal [to move].
"But I don't want to disrespect the guy who came out but was he the groundsman's assistant? He didn't look like the stadium announcer.
"I don't know if it was when we tossed up but about 15 minutes before the game, an Irish official came up with a shirt for me to sign and I just said, 'Go away, I'll do it after'.
"You've got no idea what you're going through 15 minutes before kick off of one of the biggest games of your life. So you're getting revved up to play.
"At that point I will listen to my team, my people and the referee. That's it. So when this guy comes out and says, 'Move the fellas up there', I said, 'No, we're not going anywhere, just get on with the game' and the crowd went absolutely crazy."
In the end, it did England no harm as they romped to a 42-6 victory before going on to win the Rugby World Cup later that year.