You know what they say, it’s better to be talked about than not be talked about at all. On that basis, Ireland are in a good spot, Gerry Thornley noting that “the head honchos of both the All Blacks and the Springboks” devoted a fair chunk of their time over the weekend to speculating about the World Cup prospects of Andy Farrell’s men. “And this on a weekend when Ireland weren’t even playing.”
Much of that speculation centred on whether Scotland have it in them to land a knockout blow next Saturday when they meet Ireland in Paris, a prospect, writes Gerry, that “is almost too grim or shocking to contemplate”. But? “The threat is real. Scotland are primed for their biggest game of the last four years.”
And should they prevail, there’s a fair chance that Finn Russell will have played a major role. “Flair, talent, the unexpected and the occasional risk, Russell is one of the most exciting players in town,” writes Johnny Watterson who heard from the outhalf at Scotland’s base in Nice, Johnny Sexton, naturally enough, coming up in the chat.
Owen Doyle, incidentally, has noticed “a transformation of attitude” by Sexton towards referees in this World Cup, even to the point where Ben O’Keefe, who took charge of the Ireland v South Africa game, was heard to say “thanks for your help, Johnny” as the teams came off at half-time. You could have knocked Owen over with a feather.
You’d need something a bit weightier to knock Finlay Bealham over, Gerry hearing from the Connacht tight head about, amongst other things, his friendship with Peter O’Mahony. “Me and Pete are best friends …. I’m wearing crocs at the moment and I bought Pete the exact same pair so we could be matching.” That’s a sight you’d pay a hefty fee to see.
Best buddies Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry might well be wearing matching Crocs to mark that Ryder Cup triumph in Rome, Philip Reid listening in when the two men tried to put the experience in to words.
“These are the best days of our lives,” said McIlroy, “it is why we practice, it is why we sacrifice the time.” And a measure of how much being part of the victory means to Lowry is that he puts it on a par with winning the British Open. “I am going to put that replica Ryder Cup trophy we get right in beside the Claret Jug in my trophy case and that’s going to be a very proud moment for me.”
TV watch: There’s a feast of Champions League football on your televisions tonight, RTÉ2 bringing you the Manchester United v Galatasaray game, while among TNT Sports’ offerings will be Napoli v Real Madrid, Copenhagen v Bayern Munich, Lens v Arsenal and Inter Milan v Benfica (all kicking off at 8pm).