The Offload: Ireland players enter the IRFU den

Swing Low matters, the disappeared Argentineans, by the numbers and quotes

Ireland players are trying to negotiate on pay cuts with the IRFU. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Dragon Psychology is the latest Revisionist History podcast by Malcolm Gladwell. Without attaining Taoiseach Leo levels of JRR Tolkien fandom, Smaug does get a mention as the hoarding of treasure, especially in times of dire financial need, is given the once over.

For example, The Met museum in New York has 1.5 million pieces of art and despite debts of $40 million, they ain’t blowing the dust off a single Andy Warhol.

This got us to thinking about Newlands Cross. The 92.5 acres of grass land near the Naas road was hoarded by the IRFU until the €27 million sale in November 2018.

Clubs were promised the loot. Philip Browne subsequently revealed the cash allowed the union to purchase No 10 Lansdowne road and avoid paying €300,000 annual rent. The savings would be funnelled downstream in due course.


That was then. Now, the IRFU is seeking 20 per cent pay cuts across the board. They are hardly The Met but they do retain fixed assets worth €120 million.

How much is truly in the kitty will determine what Johnny Sexton and comrades are willing to swallow. Rugby Player’s Ireland – led by Simon Keogh – has hired Ciaran Medlar of BDO chartered accountants to take a forensic look at the books.

“The IRFU is also in a better position being debt-free on the stadium and having income from the land it sold at Newlands Cross,” said Medlar in March. “Even if it needed to go down a financial route to sustain the provinces and the central contracts with players it would be in a better position to do so.”

Talks between Smaug and the dwarfs must reach a conclusion before July 1st.

By the numbers

6: The average number of seasons for the professional rugby player.

Word of mouth

"I would try and pronounce your name right. Names, like Caoimhe, Saoirse, Aoife. I will pronounce your name right but please pronounce my name too. I go home and I practice your name. I don't tell you that I'll go home and practice your name, but God damn, I do it. Because I want to treat you the same way as I would like to be treated too." – Linda Djougang – Old Belvedere, Leinster and Ireland prop – pens an essay on being a black child living in 21st century Ireland.

Swing low matters

The song they sing at Twickenham’s next mass gathering will reveal the collective nature of its inhabitants. Bet the house they will not hesitate to claim the words as their own.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, originated among slaves in America and first boomed around English rugby HQ when black wingers Martin Offiah and Chris Oti scored tries in the 1980s, has become a symbol of white privilege.

“It wasn’t until someone told me about the song and its connections that I stopped singing it,” said Maggie Alphonsi, one of England’s greatest ever players.

There is no secret about the hidden meaning of the lyrics. Not anymore. It’s about escaping a horrendous existence via the underground railroad. This is well known by the highly educated tweed brigade who make annual pilgrimages to the cradle of rugby union.

Despite Boris Johnson offering support for the song to continue as a rugby anthem, the RFU are "reviewing its historical context." This should take about 10 minutes on YouTube.

A penny for Maro Itoje’s thoughts when an overwhelmingly white crowd of 80,000 cuts loose. The Saracens lock – his club’s name leads to the same conclusions of racial oppression – may even be the captain of England when this happens.

“I don’t think anyone at Twickenham is singing it with malicious intent, but the background of that song is complicated,” said Itoje.

Now that there’s been a song and dance about Swing Low, for the English to sing it ever again can only be interpreted as malicious intent. And deeply racist.

Disappeared Argentinean rugby players

Imagine playing on a rugby team where each week a teammate would vanish. Taken from his bed in the dead of night, you discover he has been tortured and tossed from an airplane into the ocean, the body never to be recovered.

To learn about Hernan Roca and La Plata rugby club is to deep dive into the bloody history of Argentina’s disappeared.

30,000 “los desaparecidos” were believed to be murdered between 1976 and 1983 by General Jorge Rafael Videlas military junta. Many of “the missing” were middle class dissidents – like “the intellectuals of La Plata” – who made up a large majority of the rugby playing population in the country.

“First we will kill all the subversives, then we will kill their collaborators, then their sympathisers, then those who remain indifferent and finally we will kill the undecided.” These are the words of General Ibérico Saint-Jean, governor of Buenos Aires in May 1977.

This harrowing story was brought to light by a Paul O’Connell retweet of Edward Jenkins’ brilliant thread about Claudio Fava’s un-translated book Silencios that is accompanied by a documentary – “Do Not Lower Your Arms.” It comes highly recommended and instantly relatable to modern times.