Popie and ROG left to wax lyrical as Wallabies catch panel on the hop

Pre-match optimism gave way to some serious doom and gloom afterwards

We can’t wait to hear more of Ronan O’Gara being questioned by Brent Pope. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

We can’t wait to hear more of Ronan O’Gara being questioned by Brent Pope. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho


Well, after all that Latvia-thumping-induced euphoria on Friday night, Saturday was a bit of a downer, our rugby men conquered, rather emphatically, by those Australian people. “On the bright side, it’s only the All Blacks next week,” Ryle Nugent reminded us, which helped, enormously.

Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and, of course, John Delaney were in attendance again, leaving us wondering if they had slept in the stadium overnight, perhaps part of a bonding session, the three toasting marshmallows in the centre circle while snuggled up in their sleeping bags, crooning Kumbaya? Only the stadium CCTV will confirm.

And there was a similarly warm feeling emanating from the RTÉ panel before the game, plenty of hope in the air, largely because the consensus-ish was that the Australian pack was effective as, say, an umbrella in a hurricane.

Happily, having been banished from the cosiness of the studio to report from pitchside, the weather was kind to Brent Pope, no umbrella required, so he was all set for his chat with Ronan O’Gara.

A quick opening question.

Brent: “Thanks Tom, yeah Ronan just back from France, still Ireland’s most capped player of course, for a couple of games, Joe might do you a favour there or not.”

Ronan: [Opens mouth to respond, closes it again]

Brent: “ . . . first thing McKenzie did when he was selected was bring Cooper straight back, made him vice captain, they’re all talking about that he plays on the gainline . . .”

Ronan: [Opens mouth to respond, closes it again]

Brent: “ . . . interesting enough the stat is that the Queensland Reds scored more tries from first phase play with Cooper there, how do you expect, and the other thing I’m going to put to you . . .

Ronan: [Opens mouth to respond, closes it again]

Brent: “ . . . Johnny Sexton back, he played a certain way under Warren Gatland, he’s playing a certain way with you and your coaches in Paris . . .”

Ronan: [Opens mouth to respond, closes it again]

Brent: “ . . . how easy is it going to be for Johnny to come back in to Joe Schmidt’s way of playing and what danger does Cooper present?”

Ronan: [Opens mouth to respond, closes it again, then realises the question has actually, ended. So, replies]

By then, the match was 58 minutes old.

No, no, kidding, and frankly, Brent can ask the lengthiest questions he wants, and Ronan can take as long as he wishes to reply, because the two of them can’t be on our telly screens enough.

Epic chat
And, as it turned out, it might have been better if RTÉ had stuck with their epic chat, rather than show us the match.

“It’s as bad as it looks,” declared Tom McGurk, sounding Hook-ish, “does it need radical changes?” he asked Ronan, his query a little briefer than Brent’s.

“No it doesn’t, I think that’s a complete overreaction, you’re missing the point completely,” said our ROG, the only regret that he was still pitchside and not sitting alongside Tom so he could look him in the eye in a menacing way as he tackled back.

But? ROG was, he conceded, disappointed by the “body language” of the Irish players throughout the game, not enough snarl for his liking, and as for the general non-frenzied-response to that spear tackle by Tevita Kuridrani - apart from the victim: “****ing dangerous”, as Peter O’Mahony put it – “in our time, he would have got his head knocked off”. Which, when you think about it, was what Kuridrani was attempting to do to O’Mahony.

The panel? Crestfallen. A decidedly bad day at the office, the pre-match optimism a dim and distant memory.

“I want to choose my words carefully because I don’t want to sound like I’m emotional or that I’m talking down on the team, but . . .” said George Hook, and off he went. You know yourself.

Keep the faith. Remember, it’s only the All Blacks next week. With any luck it’ll be a good day, and the match won’t feel half as long as a Brent Pope question to Ronan O’Gara.

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