Our oval-shaped 'bidet' fails to flush out those tattooed English

Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 00:00

IF YOU ASK ME:It rained and it rained and it rained, we lost Zebo, we lost Sexton, we lost to England, the south stand jacks in the Aviva Stadium broke down, even the Pope decided to throw in the towel. And now they tell us there’s horse in the lamb. They do get around don’t they? From now on you’d better be careful if you’re using the phrase “there’s an elephant in the room”, that it’s not the one on your dinner plate.

Forward planning may not be a forte in Ireland, but maybe the architects knew what they were doing when they designed the Aviva Stadium to resemble a bidet (“a low, oval-shaped bowl used for washing the genital and anal area,” according to my dictionary) because that’s exactly what it felt like last Sunday.

A very big, nicely appointed, shiny bidet, but a bidet nonetheless and one – for all its shininess – distinctly lacking in atmosphere.

Of course we can’t really blame the stadium or the unrelenting misery in the sky or Ireland’s bizarre error-count, because despite all those factors, there remains the distinctly irritating feeling that Ireland could have and should have won this match.

As Matt Williams pointed out in the lead-up, as only he can: “Ireland need to dominate the corridors of power.” And I think I actually understood what he meant. Not a common occurrence it has to be said.

In the first half Ireland played facing the ‘swimming-gala-seating end’ and managed to conjure up one of the few creative moments courtesy of a familiar source, a Brian O’Driscoll skip pass to Keith Earls nearly resulting in a try for Rob Kearney.

Polite request

It was the only thing to raise either an eyebrow or a pulse, apart from the English man sitting in front of me who knocked a pint of stout over himself or the skirmish that followed Cian Healy’s polite request of burly citizen Dan Cole, if he wouldn’t mind terribly putting his foot down so that his chum, Conor Murray, could have the ball please. At least he asked!

Cole has the look of someone denying a sinister past on The Jeremy Kyle Show and he didn’t seem too keen on Healy’s approach for some reason.

Fumbles, snatches, shanks, wrong options and open season at the breakdown where England slowed Ireland ball without so much as a “non” from referee Garces, all conspired to make it as frustrating as trying to push a marshmallow into a parking meter. Why would you do that? Well even thinking about it was preferable to watching at times.

Indeed there was plenty of “aahing”, but not much “oohing” from the weary, soaked crowd. It got so eerily quiet at one stage the only thing you could hear was a mini-chorus of wet bums squeaking off plastic seats. Either that really did happen or I’m getting obsessed with this bidet analogy. My apologies!

Anyway it was hard to fathom how such a great occasion could be so dull. Then as if to demonstrate Father Deccie’s investment in youth policy he brings on Ronan O’Gara. I had a quick scan of the touchline to see if Mick O’Driscoll was warming up. It’s certainly not O’Gara’s fault, but it beggars belief that no viable alternatives – and there have been a couple over recent seasons – have not been given a crack of the whip before now. The tour to New Zealand last summer was surely an opportunity? It seems especially odd given the relatively concerted effort of late to cover other positions.

Sweet skills

As it is, the likely match-day outhalves in Edinburgh will have 127 caps between them; Paddy Jackson, Ian Madigan or Ian Keatley with none and O’Gara with, ahem, 127.

Anyhow, by the time England’s re-enforcements came on (the ones with the tattoos), you feared the worst for Ireland. You might think Courtney Lawes and Manu Tualangi don’t really need tattoos to flag their presence, but they clearly went to some trouble for the effect. Although it won’t do much for Lawes’s “rep” that at 6ft 7ins he got floored by Rob Kearney’s knee. Sweet skills from Kearney, who made it look effortless. There are some things in life you just can’t practise.

No doubt Scotland will be flying high after the dismantling of an Italian team who, having been so impressive against France, reverted to their usual ways last Saturday.

The Scots injected real pace into their back play and scored some well-taken tries, even if they take the prize for the worst kit in Six Nations history, a curious mix between the Halifax Rugby League jersey and the set of Prime Time.

France, in the meantime apparently in disarray, have Vincent Clerc (remember him?) back in their squad, allowing Wesley Fofanna to move into the centre where he’s been so deadly for Clermont this season. What odds on them getting their act together by the time they play Ireland?

Now we might want the ‘bidet’ to be wet for that one.

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