Veteran broadcaster Pat Kenny had the audacity to read Gordon D'Arcy's column live on Newstalk last Thursday morning without crediting the media outlet that published "words that capture so magically what the Six Nations means".
Kenny knows full well that Denis O’Brien has banned Irish Times journalists from appearing on any Communicorp platforms following a column by Fintan O’Toole in September 2017 accusing Newstalk of being “systematically sexist” after jettisoning Sarah McInerney from its drivetime slot.
This reporter, having been a contributor on Off The Ball (OTB), and other colleagues were directly told about the fatwa. Not that there is any bad blood and the OTB crew continue to produce some terrific journalism despite the handicap placed upon them.
The falling out equally stemmed from George Hook questioning on air, also in September 2017, why a woman in a UK rape case had gone back to the hotel room of a man she had just met. Hook suggested that she bore responsibility for being sexually assaulted by a former member of the British swim team after she had consensual sex with the first man.
“Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?” the former rugby pundit wondered aloud. Hook apologised and was sanctioned by his employers but kept his job.
Kenny liked the D'Arcy column enough to launch his Six Nations segment with a dramatic reading that even included a quasi-Gallic pronunciation of "Poit-ren-aud". Perhaps Pat simply forgot to credit the newspaper beneath his spectacles. Maybe everyone has conveniently forgotten about this petty ban on journalists but considering The Irish Times has Newstalk broadcaster Sean Moncrieff penning a Saturday column, the least Kenny can do is mention the publication he felt the need to so gushingly praise.
Pullin’s England turned up
John Pullin has died aged 79 after a long illness. Beloved by the English rugby public after the hooker captained his country to historic victories in South Africa and New Zealand, his bravery at the height of the Troubles will always be remembered in these parts after he led England to Dublin when the Scots and Welsh refused to fulfil their Five Nations fixtures.
“We’re not much good, but at least we turn up,” Pullin famously said after an 18-9 defeat at Lansdowne Road in 1973.
"Before the match I did have one threatening phone call," the West Country farmer revealed in the 2019 documentary The Team That Turned Up, directed by Luke McManus and produced by Sorcha Glackin. "They just told me not to go . . . I never actually told anyone about it at the time."
Willie John McBride also persuaded the English players to travel after the RFU abdicated responsibility. The Ulster goliath even allayed the fears of star winger David Duckham's wife.
“Tell Jean to come over and my wife will look after her,” said McBride. “That was never heard of before because the women didn’t count, wives didn’t count in rugby, they were never talked about, you weren’t married. That was nothing to do with us.”
On February 10th, 1973 the visitors received a standing ovation when they ran on to the Lansdowne pitch. Then they were trashed. Nobody remembers the result. They remember when John Pullin’s England turned up.
By the numbers
1983 – The last time Scotland won at Twickenham, until 2021.
Word of mouth
"A good afternoon in the studio for Italy v France. As expected, though many sexist comments about women working on men's rugby. Those who comment are not worthy of a response. Rugby is not a gender; it's a sport and my accolades far outweigh what any of those sexist individuals have achieved!" – Maggie Alphonsi MBE, 74 caps for England
"We're in 2021, surely this needs to stop. Gender, culture, sexuality or any other characteristics or labels should not matter once a job is done to the necessary standard. Fair play for highlighting this Maggie." – Joy Neville, match official, 70 caps for Ireland
"I think enough is enough. Italy don't have the strength in depth to compete at this level. A play-off game with Georgia to get into the Six Nations would be good TV." – Sam Warburton after Italy concede 50 to France in Rome
"I think we learned that Dupont has cracked how to play rugby. His cheat lines are sublime." – Jamie Heaslip slips into Paul O'Connell's boots on the Beeb
Matt Williams went viral on Virgin Media when stating what many people may have privately thought about the girth of Billy Vunipola during Bannockburn revisited at Twickenham.
“We have to say the Saracens players weren’t at the races,” said Williams after Scotland’s first win south of the border for 38 years. “Vunipola, if we didn’t know the pubs weren’t closed you’d swear he had been in one. He was out of shape. There is no way he was ready for international rugby.”
Ouch. Over on ITV, Clive Woodward's take on the England captain's post-match reaction has equally harsh. "Owen Farrell looked shocked there," said Sir Clive. "Shocked to his boots."
Unsurprisingly, Jonny Wilkinson supplied some clear-eyed analysis by harking back to England's near collapse at the 2003 World Cup, after they hit their peak by winning in New Zealand the previous summer. Irish rugby knows only too well about failure to maintain the highest standards but Wilkinson offered a solution.
“You need to find something that is relevant to now.”