The Offload: Irish players putting it all on the line to keep the game alive

It is surprising nobody has opted out as negative tests bring a return ever closer

Munster players returned to training last week. Photograph: Inpho

Munster players returned to training last week. Photograph: Inpho

 

Test, test, test. . .

Test, test, test. Don’t worry the following gripe will be swept away by rugby’s unstoppable resumption, but spare a thought for the Avery Bradley’s in our new existence.

The Los Angeles Laker’s six-year-old son has a history of respiratory illnesses so Bradley turned away from the chance of a lifetime when the NBA reappears in the Disney World bubble next month.

“I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.”

The IRFU must be delighted with themselves after every single provincial player came back negative for Covid-19. That’s some achievement. Almost too good to be true. It means Ulster and Connacht can follow Leinster and Munster onto the training paddock on Monday morning.

All systems go, right? Can momentum be slowed as rapidly as it was last March if a cluster emerges in UCD or UL, the Sportsground or Ravenhill? Do they have to tell us?

Professional athletes are disciplined souls but, eventually, the distance they are keeping between each other must disappear. The carefully planned movement from home to pitch and back again will not be ruined by individual idiocy but necessity. Physical contact increases every day until Leinster and Munster put all that extra muscle to use on August 22nd.

People are desperate to see sport again, and from now until Christmas soothing televised tonic will flow as we witness this great sociological experiment of the cure not being allowed to cause more damage than the disease.

Rugby restarts or the business dies. Everybody understands the risk. What’s surprising is nobody has opted out. Not yet anyway. Surely someone has a condition that puts them at high risk. Maybe the multiple asthmatics have discovered a miracle cure.

Avery Bradley’s decision is costing him $650,000. Most rugby players in Ireland cannot afford to reject already decreasing salaries. But don’t worry, stories like this will be easily forgotten. Test, test, test.

By the numbers

0 - number of players testing positive for Covid-19 as the Irish provinces return to training.

Word of mouth

“I have five as it is. On my left shoulder is a statue that my mum and I went to see in Rome. I’ve got her name, Wendy, on my forearm as well, and a rose and a dove on my forearm. I have another angel on my right arm, a tattoo of Saint Michael - my guardian angel. And I’ve got the Japanese art on my calf. This might sound weird, but I really like the feel of them when I’m getting them done.” - The evolving body art of Andrew Porter.

One of Andrew Porter’s growing number of tattoos. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
One of Andrew Porter’s growing number of tattoos. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Gallagher Homecoming

The commentary of Bill McLaren rose from the depths when Matt Gallagher embraced his Irishness by signing a two-year deal with Munster.

Before Christian Cullen there was John Gallagher. It’s 1989 and the All Black fullback catches ball in a swirling Lansdowne Road before punting high into the west upper.

“John Gallagher’s relations down in Limerick - he has a grandmother, cousins, uncle and an aunt - they’ll all be pretty chuffed with that one,” purred McLaren.

Born and raised in London to Irish parents, that day in Dublin saw Gallagher put an exclamation mark on 18 unbeaten Tests for New Zealand.

“His 13th try in Test matches and it was a beauty,” said McLaren. “Gallagher had 50 metres to go, look how he came in off his left foot, he’s so quick.”

How did such a talent slip through the net? “I woke up at an early age that my face couldn’t really fit in the English system, being an Irish catholic boy and going to a non-public school, it was going to be very, very difficult for me,” said John many moons ago.

The Irish fullback that never was disappeared into Rugby League age 25, joining Leeds for crazy money, in a decision that shocked many in New Zealand. But Matt Gallagher’s dad did wear the green jersey in 1996 against England A at Donnybrook.

“At the end, the coach said: ‘John that was great. Are you available for the Five Nations?’ I told him I was and that was the last I ever heard of it...”

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