Rugby World Cup TV View: Job done, time for Jamie to pack the white boots
Even Eddie O’Sullivan could see the positives in the seven-try win over Samoa
Tadhg Furlong in action during the Rugby World Cup match against Samoa in Fukuoka. Photograph: Hiroshi Yamamura/EPA
Job done. And while the RTÉ lads didn’t go so far as to describe the performance against Samoa as flawless, they were content enough, even Eddie O’Sullivan seeing some positives in the morning’s work.
Indeed, he was so (relatively speaking) chirpy post-match that when the Japan-bound Jamie Heaslip said he might bring his boots with him, Eddie even resisted telling him to make sure they weren’t white.
So, spirits were quite high, then, which is what a seven-try 47-5 bonus-point win with only 14 men will do for you. And that was something of a contrast to the pre-match mood when even Jamie was being cautious about Ireland’s World Cup-winning prospects, his optimism levels hit a bit by those displays against Japan and Russia. “We’re not in a good place,” said Eddie, and Jamie almost nodded.
The bulk of the early coverage focus, though, was on the weather, to the point where Evelyn Cusack wouldn’t have looked out of place on the panel. Eddie was exceedingly irate about the World Cup ever being granted to a country where extreme weather could put fixtures at risk, expressing his sympathy for Scotland, who could yet be sent homeward by Typhoon Hagibis without hoofing another ball.
It was, he said, especially annoying because this World Cup was up there with the Olympics and the football World Cup in terms of global interest, an assertion that might well have had those with no grá for the game choking on their sausage rolls.
Stephen Ferris tried to introduce some perspective. “This is serious, this isn’t just a windy day in Japan,” he pointed out, reminding us that rugby fixtures potentially being cancelled cannot be put in the same ‘disaster’ category as people’s lives potentially being imperilled.
“We’ll move on from the weather,” said Daire O’Brien. “Well, we can’t do anything about it,” said Eddie, before telling us that “we need to get to the quarter-finals with some wind in our sails”. Hagibis, you’d imagine, will make sure of that.
Then there was a quick chat about this thing that Jamie kept referring to, “the leadership group”, Daire enquiring what that might be. A group of players showing leadership, basically, although when Daire asked who was in Ireland’s group Jamie listed around two thirds of the squad, which left you worrying that it might be akin to a kitchen-full of chiefs banjaxing the broth.
On a more encouraging note, Eddie told us that the suspended Rey Lee-Lo was a massive loss for Samoa, him being “a guy who can beat you one on one in a phone booth”, so he was hopeful that his absence would make life easier for Ireland. It appeared to do just that, we were hardly up and running when the tries began to flow, Donal Lenihan especially impressed with Johnny’s kicking. “The accuracy of Sexton’s boot . . . oh, it’s gone dead.” Well, apart from that one.
But, as we know by now, Ireland always like to make things interesting after they build up healthy leads, lest our concentration drifts, so soon after Samoa scored a try, Bundee Aki got himself sent off. Donal, a little like a barrister insisting his client is innocent even though his actions were caught on CCTV, did his best to locate a mitigating circumstance for Bundee, suggesting that Ulupano Seuteni’s head fell in to his shoulder. But you sensed by his reaction not even Bundee would have bought that. Nor did the panel at half-time, all of whom reluctantly agreed the ref had got it spot on. “That’s a red card all day long,” said Stephen.
But the tries kept on coming for the 14 men after the break, Donal wondering “how did we ever make a decision before the TMO came in?” when the lads upstairs were asked to review a chunk of them, but it was indeed job done, no one looking happier about it than that Japanese gentleman in the crowd dressed as a leprechaun.
Stephen, not dressed as a leprechaun, was chuffed too, although he wasn’t overly impressed by Samoa, reckoning they were “in the pub all week” instead of on the training pitch. And he had a hunch that our quarter-final opponents, New Zealand/South Africa (one or the other, not both), would provide a somewhat sterner test. Jamie and Eddie agreed, to the point where Daire likened the mood in the studio to a “wake”, as if our World Cup hopes were already deceased.
“We’re back to being underdogs, it’s great,” he said, in an effort to persuade the lads that we can send New Zealand/South Africa homeward. Eddie wasn’t convinced. You’d half a notion, in fact, that he thinks Jamie will be the only Irishman left in Japan after the quarter-finals. So there’ll be no need for his white boots.