Six Nations: springtime in Paris but game fails to bloom

The love in the air came from a cross-dresser who, like the players, had little luck scoring

Ireland fans at the France v Ireland match in the RBS Six Nations Championship in Stade de France, Paris, where heads rolled. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Ireland fans at the France v Ireland match in the RBS Six Nations Championship in Stade de France, Paris, where heads rolled. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

 

There was supposed to be love in the air of the French capital on Saturday. It was St Valentine’s eve, after all. Instead, what nervous Irish rugby supporters could smell on the breeze everywhere was revolution.

Recent dominance in the fixture had earned Joe Schmidt’s team the reputation of aristocrats. In Paris, sooner or later, that always ends badly. Attempted head removals tend to be part of the scenario.

Sure enough, early in the game, Johnny Sexton again had his crown mistaken for that of King Louis XVI, circa 1792. Forewarned by previous assaults, he survived.

But when Dave Kearney, cast as an unlikely Marie Antoinette, was then decapitated by Guilhem “Guillotine” Guirado, while the referee looked on unperturbed, we feared the worst.

Alas, such is the wretched luck Ireland have had lately, the local revolutionaries sometimes didn’t even need the guillotine. They could just stand aside and watch the aristocrats knock the heads off each other, as happened when Mike McCarthy had a horrible clash with Jack McGrath. No wonder the blood-thirsty Marseillaise was ringing around Stade de France as the game wore on.

The occasion wasn’t entirely devoid of romance, it must be said – before kick-off at least. Among many French supporters in fancy-dress, a burly man disguised as a Pyrenean shepherdess was offering Irish male supporters drinks from a goatskin in return for kisses.

Hard to love

Fans had been well warned about delays and were generally cooperative. As kick-off neared and the rain persisted, however, patience became nearly as stretched as the queues.

There was an unsuspected preview of the match, when the orderly lines gradually gave way to scrums, putting the last layer of friskers under severe pressure. But as promised, they refused to relent. Everybody was given the full pat-down.

Like the amorous shepherdess, the match itself proved hard to love. It’s never a good sign of a game when the accursed Mexican wave appears several times in the first half, as it did here.

The brass band in the stands was more entertaining than the rugby, but then the big screen requested silence for kickers (Merci de respecter le buteur) and the musicians had to stop.

Respect

When Ireland failed to make first-half dominance pay on the scoreboard, and the referee failed to reward French foul play with the sin bin, matters grew ominous for the visitors.

Not that such a turn of events will have been any surprise to a group from North Kildare rugby club. They had competed with each other beforehand to be pessimistic. “France by five,” suggested one of them, Joseph Halpin. “France by 15”, said his friend Seán Hegarty.

Their number included one Jack Bruton, who worked in the trading division of Paddy Power, giving his predictions added authority. Et tu, Bruton, we asked? France by three, he said.

In the end it was France by only one, and in a manner far removed from the glories of their performances past.

But it was both a sign of how far they had fallen, and of how much respect Ireland had earned, that the final whistle was greeted with great celebrations. Rain and all, it was as if springtime in Paris had been officially declared. The scorer of the only try, Maxime Médard, performed a bunny hop of joy.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.