TV view: Dallaglio shows he is deadly when it comes to motivation
Tonga substitute Fukofuka causes a stir in the commentary box as he enters the fray
France’s players celebrate with fans after bearing Tonga at the Kumamoto Stadium in Kumamoto, Japan. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images
At the end of yet another week when the prevailing rugby mood was a bit on the glum side – the postmortem on Thursday’s narrow 35-0 win over Russia not making for mood-lifting reading – James Slipper reminded us that there is always hope of a brighter day.
After scoring his first try for Australia in his 94th appearance, against Uruguay at the crack of dawn on Saturday, his beam was almost as broad as the gap between the teams. “Hopefully the floodgates will open now,” he said.
They might too now that he’s finally cracked the try-scoring code. But it brought to mind that horrendously cruel terrace chant of old: “If Emile Heskey can play for England, so can I.”
Maybe we need something similar for our journey in Japan, something like: “If James Slipper can score a try for Australia, Ireland can find their World Cup mojo.” It’s not as catchy, admittedly, but we’ve heard less inspirational things.
Like, for example, on ITV on Saturday when Mark Pougatch showed Lawrence Dallaglio some dressing-room footage from his days as England captain when he told his underlings before a highly important game that if they didn’t win they’d not only be letting their living family down, they’d be failing their dead relations too.
This, we thought, was a rather extreme approach to the art of motivation, sort of “your deceased loved ones will spin in their graves if you don’t go out and do the job – and on your consciences be it if you fail”, but Lawrence was evidently very proud of the speech, his nostrils flaring quite violently as he reviewed the clip.
All you could hope was that Johan Deysel didn’t impart the same class of message to his Namibian colleagues ahead of their Sunday meeting with New Zealand, because no matter how plucky they proved to be, it was never going to end well. Nor did it.
Plucky they were, though, even surviving the Haka, the performance of which by the All Blacks in front of Namibia being akin to Conor McGregor bullying a five-year-old in the school playground and threatening to knock the living daylights out of him if he didn’t hand over his bubble-gum before running for the hills.
Incidentally, the kick-off time in the New Zealand v Namibia game was 5:45am, and if you weren’t up in time you’re only a World Cup fly-by-night. Looking at you, Tommy Bowe, not a sign of him and his Eir Sport crew for the game, himself, Eimear Considine and James Lowe only turning up for the 8:45am clash of France and Tonga.
By then we had a choice of Eir, RTÉ and ITV, all three of them showing this particular game, until now RTÉ only airing Ireland’s fixtures. Daire O’Brien suggested to Bernard Jackman and Fiona Coghlan that it was an almighty relief to get a break from covering our lads’ games, the pair’s heads nodding so hard they nigh on fell off their shoulders.
A more than decent game it was too, although there was a stressful moment for ITV commentator Martin Gillingham, already worn out from apologising for audible fruity language, especially from those uncouth backs, when Tonga brought on Leon Fukofuka as a sub.
“Thankfully, we’re on first name terms with Leon,” he said, although over on Eir, Eddie Butler was having no such problems, him displaying his legendary and unrivalled powers of pronunciation, somehow turning “Fukofuka” into something that sounded like a fragrant flower.
France prevailed, but just. “They haven’t brought their je ne sais quoi to this World Cup, more their je ne sais pas,” Pougatch said to Paul O’Connell, who asked him to translate because, he intimated, he wasn’t taught the language in Ardscoil Rís.
No translation was needed for Le Relief of Le French when they performed the Icelandic thunderclap in Japan after beating Tonga, while a gaggle of supporters in Italian shirts looked on, lest you hadn’t grasped the Worldly Cup nature of this adventure.
Back on RTÉ, Daire O’Brien was finding his inner Karl – “...it’s too early on a Sunday for a Marxist rant, but at the same time there’s such global inequality, there’s not much between France and Tonga, only money...” – a discussion that was not being had at all over on ITV.
The Pougatch man was too busy focusing on all things England. “The day the World Cup got serious,” he said of Blighty’s tussle with Argentina.
Irish, Scottish and Welsh fans might well have said “Fukofuka you”.