Sacked on the back of England’s dismal World Cup showing on home soil in 2015, the Leinster senior coach now finds himself implicated, indirectly, in Ireland’s tortured 2019 campaign which was brought to a limp end by the All Blacks in Tokyo.
Gareth Thomas had to stop and gather himself more than once today. His voice faltered. It choked with emotion. Who knows how many times his nerves were betrayed by an subconscious impulse to tug at his right ear?
The prospect of playing for the Barbarians against Tonga tomorrow night and in the same side as Donncha O’Callaghan is helping Munster’s James Cronin forget the injuries that have plagued and seriously damaged his career — with the prop now hopeful better times must surely lie ahead.
Thankfully it wasn’t all about the game itself on a bright summer’s day at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday. At least two stand-out moments came from the two Ulster players who were bidding farewell to a venue they had graced on numerous occasions.
Rassie Erasmus has given Munster’s young midfield hopefuls two pre-season games to stake their claim to a starting place for the new campaign before looking to bring in a more experienced replacement for long-term injury victim Francis Saili.