Matt Williams: Ten ways to navigate the barren rugby landscape

Just a week ago it was all so different, now we’re fighting over the last packs of toilet paper

Seven days ago life was a lot simpler.

After England beat Wales at Twickenham, I jumped in the car and headed for Dingle. I drove along the Slea Head drive, then across the gorgeous cliff tops of the Skellig Ring, with staggering views of Skellig Michael. Co Kerry was sensational.

The hospitality from the locals was magic, as was the magnificent seafood with a pint or two along the way. The round trip from Dublin, via the beautiful lakes of Killarney, was superb.

Right up until the moment when the phone rang to tell me the match between Scotland and Wales was off.


The virus was accelerating frighteningly quickly and last of the winter wine was gone.

For more than 50 years I have continually played, coached and talked about rugby. For the first time in all those years there was a void.

A rushed and perilous journey back to my home in France was navigated, only to find it in total shut down.

In wonderful French fashion, to leave your home to buy food you must now carry a government document.

The ‘Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire’ has to be printed from a government website and produced if you are stopped by the patrolling municipal police.

Last week I had the wild Atlantic wind in my face, beautiful Co Kerry at my back and a Test match from Cardiff on my mind. Now I need a government document to go outside.

I understand that compared to the catastrophic effect this virus has had on people's health and the economic torment that is being inflicted on the world, my rugby "cold turkey" is nothing, but it's like I am in a version of the Betty Ford Clinic. Complete withdrawal and boredom.

As a seven-year-old, Sister Finnbar bashed into me that the devil makes work for idle hands. Like Genghis Khan, she was not very likeable but highly effective.

So I made a ‘To Do’ list.

Item 1: Buy some food.

With my note from President Macron I go to the supermarket. I am pushing a shopping trolley, when I meet the municipal police.

They ask me where I am going.

I tell them I’m off for a round of golf.

Ask a stupid question . . .

Come on boys. I am outside the supermarket pushing a shopping trolly. No wonder you didn’t make detective.

I get back a blank look, but I am allowed to pass the shopping trolley checkpoint.

Inside, the joint is packed with morons all fighting over packets of 3 ply, soft on your privates, toilet tissue.

It’s pandemonium.

I yell in my best bad French, “The virus attacks your lungs, not your bum!” I get no reaction.

I resist an overwhelming primal urge to leap into the toilet paper Octagon and join the fight over the last six pack of 2 ply.

I glance around the aisle. They are all wearing masks.

Last time I saw this many masks I was watching a stagecoach being held up during a John Wayne western on TG4.

Like John Wayne’s movie, the storyline here is pretty thin. Above the masks the peoples’ eyes are full of fear and ignorance. How very sad.

Item 2: Start 20-day online yoga course.

The old hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, wrists, neck and ankles just don’t seem to be as flexible as they once were.

In lesson one my young American yoga instructor is encouraging me to concentrate on “getting my breath deep down into all your stiff muscles.” While I am not against the concept, I am stiff all over and the bizarre clicking sounds coming from my knees are making more noise than a forest full of crickets.

Warrior 1, 2 and 3 is not an action movie franchise, but yoga positions that are creating worrying twig snapping crunches form my vertebra.

Item 3: Give up wine and cheese.

I cross this out several times. Then write the word, ‘Fool.’

Item 4: Start to make the home-brewing kit that has been sitting in the garage for months.

Note to self. Remember to not put in extra sugar, like you did last time, that caused 25 of the bottles to explode and the rest to have the equivalent alcohol content as the fuel for a Saturn V rocket.

Extra note. Use last remains bottle of homebrew to clean terminals on car battery.

Item 5: Hide all paintbrushes and utensils associated with home decorations.

‘Significant other’ is using alarming phrases like “flat Saturn acrylic” and “undercoat.” Quick, hide them NOW!

Item 6: Watch all of Eddie Jones press conferences from the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

We all need a laugh and Eddie’s such a funny bugger.

Item 7: Watch the video of Ireland’s greatest tries from 2019. Gee, that 50 seconds went quick.

Item 8: Watch the National Rugby League from Australia.

The AFL (Aussie rules) and the Australian National Rugby League are so close to financial bankruptcy that to get their hands on their TV rights money, this weekend they will play games behind closed doors. Risking the health of their players in a madness only found in Australia.

Item 9: Watch the AFL, Australian Rules.

I crossed this one out as well. Things are bad, but not that bad.

Item 10: Stay strong, count your blessings, try to smile and remember this too will pass.

Tell all at the Irish Times and your readers to do the same.