Six Nations TV View: Nitty gritty, it wasn’t pretty as Andy Farrell era dawns

Postmortem the order of the day as ghosts of 2019 continue to reverberate

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg  fumbles the ball as he attempted to touch down during the Six Nations match against Ireland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph:  Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg fumbles the ball as he attempted to touch down during the Six Nations match against Ireland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

 

“Hearts were broken . . . BUT. . . time heals all wounds,” Virgin Media promised as they introduced us to the 2020 Six Nations, although anyone hoping that there’d be divil a mention of rugby events in 2019, just as we’d had the stitches taken out from said wounds, were to be sorely disappointed.

Indeed, the opening montage was even accompanied by an especially mournful version of Wicked Game, when the tune is plenty mournful enough, over images of inconsolable Irish rugby players and fans from 2019. Although, to signal a new dawn, it then broke in to a more upbeat number called Die In This Town, which includes the line: “Nitty gritty, this ain’t gonna be pretty”.

Which, as it turned out, kinda summed up the afternoon.

In the build-up, though, the 2019 postmortem persisted, Joe Molloy reminding us of just how “dismal” a year it was for Irish rugby, adding, somewhat ominously, that “Andy Farrell was party to what went wrong . . . today he is the main man”.

It was a little like how Ivan Yates dealt with Micheál Martin in the debate the other night, reminding him that he couldn’t distance himself from the ruling regime because of that ‘Confidence and Supply’ business. In Joe’s eyes, then, Andy was sort of to Joe what Micheál was to Leo, so he was worried that the new regime wouldn’t be a whole lot different to the last.

Ronan O’Gara didn’t exactly lift his spirits when the panel discussed how many of the old guard had kept their places in Andy’s first team, John Cooney not being given his fling ahead of Conor Murray leaving them especially exercised. “If we always do what we always have done, you’ll always get what you always got,” he concluded.

But down on the pitch, Shane Jennings had some good news, he’d spotted a significant difference during the warm-up that suggested this would indeed be a new dawn. Andy, he told us, wasn’t “running around like a blue-arsed fly”, as, he said, Joe used to do – everything feeling a bit more relaxed.

That impressed ROG, who then took a quick detour to talk about what a big loss Warren Gatland would be to Welsh rugby. “A massive loss,” he said. “He even had the boys putting on fake tan before games because they would look bigger – that’s how much they bought in to what he said.”

The revelation that fake tan makes you look bigger clearly came as a monster surprise to both Matt Williams and Shane Horgan, who will possibly now spend the week on sunbeds before turning up for the Welsh game.

Match time and Caelan Doris took an age to settle in to international rugby, waiting a whole 90 seconds before doing an outstanding thing called a jackal with his very first touch of the ball, which resulted in an Irish penalty just as it looked like a rampant Scotland, who must have been wearing fake tan, would score a try against our lads.

But barely had his comrades stopped applauding him when he was injured, forcing him to depart the game. Cruel. Brian O’Driscoll had kind words for him, though, over on ITV. “He’ll live to fight another day,” he said, “Paul O’Connell got concussed on his first cap and he did all right.”

There wasn’t a whole lot new-dawnish about the first half, as it proved, the Virgin Media panel conceding that Scotland were a bit more useful that they had anticipated. And ROG was worried about our lads’ split personality. “There are two different Irelands on the pitch, one with tempo . . . then they look very different when there’s a flat line of attack with no active pivots,” he said, like we had any clue what that meant.

The second half and Scotland continued to be bothersome, despite enduring a week in which they had suffered their own Saipan, what with the Finn Russell business, were removed from the European Union against their will, and were widely tipped to be pulverised in Dublin.

And to top it all, Stuart Hogg dropped the ball just as he should have been scoring a try. As Matt put it, “if my old Dad was around he would have chewed his arse off”.

But despite that mishap, with mere minutes left on the clock they were threatening to snatch a draw: Hamish Watson, who you’d never guess was Scottish, bursting forth towards our line, earning the ultimate tribute from ITV’s Nick Mullins: “He’s a little like a motorised mouse.”

But our own Mighty Mouse, CJ Stander, put a stop to his gallop, an act that contributed to him earning the man-of-the-match award, enough to almost silence those who reckoned he shouldn’t even have been in the team. “Emmmm,” said Matt come full-time.

“Ireland,” bellowed Dave McIntyre when time was up, “by the skin of their teeth!”

“It’s called Test rugby for a reason – because you get tested,” said ROG, wiping the perspiration from his brow.

Nitty gritty, it wasn’t pretty, but sure look, the new dawn is up and running, a win’s a win.

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