NZ Tour Diary

 

Rugby miscellany compiled by GERRY THORNLEY

Foregone conclusion: Pundits slam 'hopeful' Irish

AN EXAMPLE of the way the Irish team is being glibly dismissed occurred on the midweek sports magazine programme, Deaker on Sport, hosted by Murray Deaker on Sky Sports. In response to a Steve Hansen quote explaining that they wanted two contrasting scrum-halves in Aaron Smith and Piri Weepu, especially as scrum-halves rarely last 80 minutes nowadays, one of the panellists, Kevin Putt, was asked for his opinion.

“What a load of bollox,” he said.

Putt, himself a well-travelled scrum-half who played with Terenure before playing and coaching with the Sharks in South Africa, would at least say he rated this Irish team but pointed out that they were missing some key players, before ripping into a quote from Brian O’Driscoll that they would “hopefully” beat New Zealand for the first time in one of the three Tests.

“Kevin, you’re in trouble if you say ‘hopefully’, aren’t you?” asked Deaker.

“Aw mate, you know the old adage that said ‘if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right’. That’s exactly it. They’re not convinced they can. They’re even talking back in Ireland at the moment about damage control, so they don’t even have the support of the country. There was at least a belief to start with that ‘we could go’ and the way they started the Test it looked bloomin’ good. I thought ‘you ripper, we’re going to have a great series’. I think that’s gone.”

Cue fellow pundit, ex-All Black great Andy Haden. “Hmm. ‘We’re here to beat the All Blacks’ is the line. He’s got to follow that through. And they won’t, because they don’t believe they can.”

Haden has said that New Zealand is sick and tired of European teams coming down south who aren’t at their best.

“We are sold short with these sorts of teams that are turning up here,” said Haden, adding: “The reason why they’re not sold out is that the opposition is not rated.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

When asked if he’d had time to overcome the memory of his last visit to Christchurch, ie his cruelly curtailed tenure as Lions captain due to Speargate and all that. “Yes, I’ve had plenty of time – seven years,” said O’Driscoll. “And time heals all wounds, including shoulder wounds.”

Steady hand at the tiller: Kidney shows steely nerve

ONE OF the challenges of touring is reducing the boredom factor and maintaining as much entertainment as possible.

Jenga, the tower-building game with wooden blocks, is a favourite in the Irish hotel team room along with pool, table tennis et al, and this week a face-off between head coach Declan Kidney and captain Brian O’Driscoll drew a sizeable audience as well as a bet between the protagonists.

Still hands and a strong nerve are required, as well as tactical appreciation. The coach held his nerve. The captain brought the tower down. One-nil to the coach.

**

JAMIE HEASLIP was asked whether commonplace reference to New Zealand as the All Blacks gave them an extra aura and somewhat made them harder to beat. The Irish number eight dismissed the notion, pointing out that it was merely a nickname. “It’s just like Australia being called the Wallabies, or what do you call England, the Pommies?” “Worse,” muttered one Kiwi hack.