TV View: Odd rugby rule and cryptic Abramovich leave us all bewildered

A PhD in rugby rules was required to know what was going on in Ireland-Italy clash

Matt Williams was spittin'. "Muppets," he said of the World Rugby people who introduced the rule that resulted in Italy having just the 13 men on the pitch for the bulk of the game on Sunday when, pre-match, he'd a notion they'd struggle even if they had twice that number.

Dave McIntyre and Alan Quinlan had tried, quite heroically, to explain to those of us who don’t have a PhD in the rules of rugby precisely what had happened in that first half.

The gist was that because hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi had gone off injured and his replacement Epalahame Faiva was then sent off, the scrums would have to be uncontested so Italy had to go down to 13 men, so they sent winger Pierre Bruno for an early bath so they could have a third prop in the scrums even though they'd be uncontested so they brought on Ivan Nemer and took off Toa Halafihi.

It was kind of like trying to understand the Pythagoras theorem all over again, and not even Joe Molloy’s graphic at half-time, that was kind of a World Rugby Rules for Dummies’ effort, helped. At all.

"There's something wrong if we have to bring out a matrix to explain to people what's going on," said Shane Horgan, who, bless him, was feeling our pain.

Even before kick-off, the Virgin Media panel was already feeling sorry for Italy, what with all the talk about them being replaced by South Africa in the Six Nations line-up.

Matt thought this was a nuts idea, on several levels, not least because the Six Nations is a European tournament and South Africa, the clue being in the name, are not European.

The climatic contrast alone between their home and away Six Nations games would, he argued, be enough to scuttle the proposal. “It’s 32 degrees today in Pretoria,” he told us, which might have had the Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish and French rugby bodies scrambling to campaign for SA’s inclusion.

‘Flat afternoon’

Any way, “it was a flat afternoon,” Joe concluded, Italy being reduced to 12 men in the second half not increasing the competitive nature of the contest, 57-6 to Ireland in the end.

“The loser today wasn’t Ireland, it wasn’t Italy, it was the game of rugby,” said Matt. “If that’s your first time watching a game of rugby, you’re not going to watch a second.” To be honest though, and this might offend some, if the ref at Twickenham chooses to reduce England to 13 men in a fortnight, feel free.

If the Virgin panel put in a hefty punditry shift on Sunday, it paled next to the efforts of Micah Richards and Karen Carney on Sky on Saturday evening when David Jones asked them to analyse Roman Abramovich's charitable intentions after that statement from Chelsea, rather than focus on Rodri's (alleged) handball at Goodison Park.

“What does that statement even mean, it’s almost like it’s written in a code,” said Micah, who, no more than ourselves, reckoned it was as clear as the rules of rugby.

Over on Sky Sports News, meanwhile, Nick Powell brought on his colleague Kaveh Solhekol to break the code. "My understanding is that Mr Abramovich is taking this measure for the good of the club . . . he's not involved in politics and he's not involved with Vladimir Putin. "

McCabe’s delectable goal

You waited, and waited – and waited – for Kaveh to add “LOL”. But, still waiting.

No matter. Sunday was a day for dusting down that old Arrigo Sacchi quote: "Football is the most important of the unimportant things in life." First, Katie McCabe's delectable goal for Arsenal in the FA Cup against Liverpool, which RTÉ News had the good sense to bring us live. "Yet another one to put in her back pocket," as Lisa Fallon swooned.

And then goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher scoring the penalty that, ultimately, won Liverpool the League Cup. He's so good, this fella, even Gary Neville could pronounce his name.

Kelleher and Gavin Bazunu? There’s a bit of a ‘waiting ages for a bus, then two come along’ feel to this. No complaints, mind, we’re blessed.