TV View: Rinse, wash and repeat as Rugby World Cup quarter-final hoodoo comes back to haunt Ireland

‘We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the team forced us to’: Funereal mood in the studio as Paris ‘23 joins the list of defeats

Ireland’s Caelen Doris dejected at the final whistle in their quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks at Stade de France. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

There were about 10 minutes left on the clock when there was a break in play, so the Stade de France DJ took the opportunity to blast Highway to Hell over the speakers. It turned out to be a rather prophetic choice of tune. Come full-time we were in purgatory.

“Deja vu all over again,” said a crestfallen Joe Molloy, “Paris ‘23 joins the list”.

And so it did. Earlier we were shown a graphic, that did bog all for the nerves, detailing Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeats down the years. Sydney, Dublin, Durban, Lens (a play-off), Melbourne, Wellington, Cardiff, Tokyo . . . and now Paris. “Rinse, wash and repeat,” said Joe, “a tale of woe”.

Indeed, he told us, the last time Ireland even led in a World Cup quarter-final was 1995. “Is that right,” asked a gobsmacked Matt Williams. “Nelson Mandela was only out of jail a few years.”


These trips down memory lane, which were accompanied by a mournful montage showing Keith Wood in tears, Ronan O’Gara chewing his knuckles and John Hayes looking bewildered, did nothing for the confidence levels in the Virgin Media studio. Shane Horgan, Joe told us, was even off his food.

Ireland’s dream dies in Paris as All Blacks secure World Cup semi-final spotOpens in new window ]

More than anything, though, Matt was just giddy with excitement, on nights like this “as we say in Australia, there are sheep stations up for grabs”. And Rob Kearney, while cautious, was optimistic once “you remove the aura that the All Blacks have and remove our quarter-final heartbreak and our history in the World Cup”.

That was a lot of removing, and it was notable that while Rob spoke the numbers voting “yes” in the on-screen poll, asking if Ireland would break their quarter-final curse, plummeted. Undeterred, Rob insisted that Andy Farrell’s men only had to get it “90, 95 per cent right” to prevail.

Earlier, in a largely empty stadium, Andrew Trimble had told us that “on a scale of one to Zombie, I’d say we’re at Athenry levels of excitement”, but by the time the teams emerged from the tunnel, the scale combusted.

Formalities done and dusted, and off we went. “There’s no need for huge panic here,” said Alan Quinlan immediately before New Zealand went over for their second try, the conversion making it 13-0. The All Blacks were getting it 110 per cent right.

By now you’d have been asking the dog if he’d like a late evening walk. Happily, this one said “you’re grand, thanks”, so both Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park’s tries were witnessed. Just a point in it at half-time, the tussle a bit on the epic side.

“The bad news is that New Zealand aren’t here to mess around, they’re here to play,” said Shane, his tummy rumbling from both the nerves and hunger. None of the panel addressed the burning question from that first half, though: how is there never a hair out of place on Beauden Barrett’s head during a game of rugby?

Second half. The chief purpose of sport is to entertain. Those closing stages? Especially that 37-phase attack that ultimately yielded nada? Excruciating. The sensible folk were watching Killinaskully over on RTÉ One.

So accustomed are we to these disappointments, we should really have been able to take this one in our stride. But then you see Johnny Sexton’s tearful son telling him “you’re still the best dad” and, ah stop. “That’s sport, that’s life,” Sexton probably told him, as he said to Tommy Martin after.

The mood back in the studio was funereal. “We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the team forced us to,” said Joe, who, in fairness to him, had warned us pre-match, lest we’d forgotten (and many of us had), that “New Zealand are still bloody good at rugby”.

They are too. Not that that will console Ireland. “Some of them will have to live with this for four years, some of them will have to live with it for the rest of their lives,” said Shane, who was still off his food, “it’s heartbreaking because they didn’t deliver the performance they wanted to deliver”.

Percentages? “Ireland 75,” said Rob, “New Zealand 100”. Rinse, wash and repeat.

The only way our evening’s viewing could have become more hellishly painful was if Virgin Media finished up with a plaintive Johnny Cash tune over a montage of Sexton in tears, Peter O’Mahony chewing his knuckles and Aki looking bewildered. And with that, “I hurt myself today . . .”

Ah here.