TV View: There’s only one sole certainty with France

You can never write off the Germans and you never know which France will turn up

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton celebrates kicking a drop goal. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton celebrates kicking a drop goal. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

We’ve long since known from listening to the pundits that there are two certainties in life: you can never write off the Germans and you never know which France will turn up.

While the former truism doesn’t quite apply to rugby, Germany having lost their last outing 50-6 to Georgia (and far be it for us to suggest they need to work on their grassroots, but their team featured names like Paine, Coetzee, Murphy, Ledingham, Parkinson, Armstrong, May, Barber, Garner and Dickinson), the consensus is that it most certainly does when it comes to France.

Indeed, if you were to play a drinking game and down a pint for every time a Six Nations pundit wondered out loud which version of France would put in an appearance, you’d need to head to A&E to be pumped out.

Plenty of flair, we’re told, but flighty, fickle and fragile. Daire O’Brien, wearing socks that played havoc with our horizontal hold, touched on this very subject, reckoning they were susceptible to mind games, Ireland’s chief task to figure out what would send them over the edge.

“How do you get in to their heads,” he asked.

“Say something French,” said Brent Pope, which wasn’t the answer Daire was looking for, so he moved on.

Leadership skills

“He was right 75 per cent of the time - and he thought he was right the other 25.”

Jonny Wilkinson and Gareth Thomas chuckled; they’d known a few team-mates like that in their time.

Any way, which France would turn up? A half-decent one at the start, but then Ireland got in to their heads and it was another three points on the board.

Ronan O’Gara wasn’t waving his inflatable green, white and gold banana, though, and neither were Brent and Shane Horgan, the mood of the panel somewhat subdued, Ireland’s performance not having them Riverdancing about the studio. “Dogged,” was the best Ronan could offer.

Trio withdrawn

They turned up in Donnybrook come Sunday too to play an Irish side shorn of a fifth of their line-up, the trio withdrawn from Six Nations duty so they could pack for next weekend’s Sevens tournament in Las Vegas. The decision from on high left Fiona Steed and Rosie Foley almost as aggrieved as 15s coach Tom Tierney, neither of them massively confident as a result.

Rosie unhelpfully reminded us that France had beaten Scotland 55-0, the same Scotland we only beat with the last heave of the game, and that Ireland had only won two of their 24 previous encounters.

Over at the ground, Ryle Nugent alerted us to the imminent anthems. After a lengthy enough silence you could only assume Storm Ewan had blown away the person tasked with pressing play on the music machine. So, we were treated to a cappella versions of both tunes, before the play button was found a couple of lines in to Ireland’s Frog Chorus Call.  

“The less said about that, probably the better,” said Ryle.

Grand slam

Later in the day, the impossible looked half possible. “You could hear a chariot with a squeaky bearing, bags of hush greeting the half-time whistle,” said Daire as Italy went in 10-5 up. Italy, like.

Then England turned up and won. “In football they say park the bus. I don’t know what they had, but it was bigger than a bus . . . that’s not rugby,” said their coach Eddie Jones to ITV, hinting at some displeasure with Italy’s approach.

Much as he hearts Conor O’Shea, Ronan couldn’t disagree. “How can you be paying big money to go and watch that?”

Next time he won’t turn up.

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