Rugby World Cup: Think of the storm if it was Ireland and not Scotland getting turfed out
It would have made the Thierry Henry carry-on seem like a typhoon in a teacup
Stop all the clocks. Turn off the deep-fat fryer, leave the Mars bars alone. Do not walk five hundred miles.
It looks for all the world that Scotland’s World Cup is about to be dead-parroted, sent off to join the choir invisible. The RWC organisers have assured Gregor Townsend and his men that they have a contingency plan in place; increasingly it looks like said contingency plan is a faux-polite sayonara and their bus fare home.
Italy have already been handed their cards, ending the legendary careers of Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini a game early. But since they wouldn’t have beaten the All Blacks anyway, it hasn’t quite got the traction of the impending Scotectomy.
The temptation, of course, is to snigger down our sleeves here at the plight of our Celtic cousins. After all, Townsend himself seemed fairly ambivalent about our plight the other day when it looked like it would be Ireland’s game that would be blown away rather than his.
“The Ireland game cannot be postponed, it has to be played that day,” was the Scotland coach’s take on it last Sunday. “If it cannot be played that day then it’s two points for each team.” He has since, understandably enough, somewhat revised his ideas and what can and cannot be done. And if you want to have a go at him for that, you must first ask yourself a simple question.
Could you imagine if it was us?
Picture the scene. Super Typhoon Hagibis nixes Ireland’s game instead of Scotland’s. The Scots go on to beat Japan on Sunday and Ireland’s World Cup ends face down in a vat of sake without a ball being kicked. Let’s just say it’s doubtful we would take it well.
In the beginning, it would at least be unifying. We all know the whole Team Of Us thing has kind of fallen on its arse so far, but be assured, this would bring the country together in a way the Fiachras in marketing could only dream of. There would be a beautiful irony in the fact that summarily depriving us of rugby in this way would, in a fingersnap, turn us into Rugby Country.
We know how this goes. We have form. Remember Thierry Henry? The protests? The boycotts? The suggestion that it was time to stop buying Cuisine de France products – even though it’s an Irish company? Nicky Byrne rang Fifa. The popstar son-in-law of the former Taoiseach rang Fifa headquarters and asked to be put through to Sepp Blatter about it. That’s not even a gag. That actually happened.
Take all the stuff that went into that. The hurt. The outrage. The sense of entitlement denied. Multiply it by rugby and we’d find ourselves at a pretty pass indeed.
Sadly, Japan would bear the brunt of it. The conspiracy theories around that scrum put-in reversal against Samoa would be put in the ha’penny place. This would be painted as nothing less than a fix to ensure that the host nation makes the quarter-finals and to hell with everyone else. And for that, there would have to be repercussions.
Sushi would be outlawed. Wagamama would be under siege. The Japanese Gardens in Kildare would be renamed Freedom Gardens.
Joe would have to be talked to, of course. Duffy, that is, not Schmidt. Rumour has it that the Liveline staff all got life memberships of health spas to recover after the Henry bother – and that was only a World Cup playoff. This is during the actual tournament, a mere 20 days before a tilt at being world champions. RTÉ would have to clear the afternoon schedules completely, meaning Ray D’Arcy would have to be cancelled. Still, every cloud.
M’learned friends would have to be consulted. In a world where solicitor’s letters have been known to be fired off for getting names wrong in schoolboy match reports (again, actually happened) we would be naive to think that RWC lads would escape having to answer for this in front of the beaks. Or at least being threatened with the prospect. Cancellations, reimbursements, emotional damage – it would be the foolish Senior Counsel who would go to bed at night not daring to dream of the billable hours that lie ahead.
Nobody would watch another minute of the World Cup, you could be sure of that. Jamie Heaslip and Eddie O’Sullivan would cease to exist. Tommy Bowe’s big smiley head would collapse into a sad frown. The ITV guys would be talking about England winning the 2003 World Cup, thus remaining serenely unaffected by it all.
So go easy on the sad Scots this weekend. God knows we’d reveal nothing but the worst of ourselves in their situation.