MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: The positives of missing out on a Rugby World Cup

Michael Moynihan reports back from after the 2023 Rugby World Cup and tells us missing out was no bad thing. 

Dateline: 6 November 2023.

Now that the event has passed we can look back and say what a close call we had, missing out on hosting this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Go back to 2017, the weeping and gnashing of teeth, and you’d be forgiven for thinking we were going to be deprived of a fountain of cash spewing banknotes in the air from the centre of the country, probably near Athlone.

As it happens, the irresistible rise of Bitcoin in the intervening half-decade or so has meant the end of cash: nowadays the international monetary system consists of half a dozen coders in an apartment in Christchurch organising the flow of values between random individuals with no regard for national boundaries.

So much for the millions in of euro restaurant bookings we were going to reap, eh?

As for the actual tournament itself, it’s funny how back in 2017 we were all worried about the potential for crime in South Africa - indigenous crime, that is.

Who could have predicted then that when Brexit eventually happened the natural next step would be the independence of Cornwall, itself a rugby stronghold, from Britain?

Or the creation in 2020 of a pan-Catalan state encompassing bits of Spain and southern France on the Mediterranean side, and the Basques achieving a similar entity on the Atlantic coast?

Then there was the New Zealand Split...

Remember the fighting on the streets of Johannesburg between the Catalan Ultras and the Cornish Loyalists last week?

Or the damage in Cape Town by the North Islanders as they took off after the South Islanders, all of them - confusingly - wearing All Black jerseys?

The nostalgic among you will probably shake your heads when I remind you of Ireland falling down in the qualification criteria - remember those? - in terms of stadium quality.

None of us foresaw the explosion in integrated drone technology then, of course: everyone’s cranial implant now links seamlessly to the drone you can send wherever you want on the field of play, obviating the need for those stadia at all.

Why, the last time a crowd was admitted into Loftus Versfeld at all was to watch the Rolling Stones on their As If We Were Here Tour, and that was five years ago.

Anyway, if we’d hosted the World Cup ourselves we’d have missed out on the scenes when head coach Simon Zebo led the lads out of the tunnel in Dublin Teleport to a rapturous welcome.

Who among us will ever forget Zebo’s stirring address that day?

“We may not have a lot to be proud of in this country these days,” said the Corkman in a speech that future generations of schoolchildren will surely be forced to commit to memory.

“Some of us, in fact, may have to fight our way with machetes to the armoured convoy that will take us out of the capital and back to our own heavily fortified houseboats along the Lee.

“But we will always have hope. As long as we are ruled by that hologram of Leo hovering over the midlands but visible everywhere in the country, we will have hope.

“With that in mind I am proud to announce here that Ireland intends to host the 2093 Rugby World Cup, having received assurances from the Technical Review Group that our experience of hosting a major tournament should surely be at the required level by then.”

A statement from Shane Ross is expected shortly.

I’m just asking for a friend...

Transcript of a text exchange last week between me and an intercounty player.

IP: DID (name of teammate) GET AN ALLSTAR?

ME: No idea. Not a judge. Less of the SHOUTING.

IP: BECAUSE HE DESERVES ONE.

ME: See previous text.

IP: IF ANYONE DESERVES ONE HE DOES.

ME: Again ... 

Pause of an hour or so. Then:

ME: Is this your way of asking if you got an All-Star?

IP : If I stop SHOUTING will you find out for me?

ME: (random emojis).

IP: Hello?

When Motor City was left on the bidding scrapheap

You can see the little bit of fun I had elsewhere on the page with the RWC announcement, but it’s not all light-hearted, of course.

Some of the omens are frightening. One of my favourite books in recent years was Once In A Great City by David Maraniss, about Detroit’s recent history.

The city pitched for the Olympics to be held in 1968 and was confident ahead of the final decision, which was to be made in Baden-Baden in 1963: Detroit was viewed as the front-runner in a field which also consisted of Lyon, Buenos Aires and Mexico City.

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with the cesspit that is Olympic history will know that the Games were held in Mexico in 1968, of course.

In Maraniss’s book there’s an uncomfortable exchange between a member of the Detroit delegation and one of the Mexicans when the latter points out that Mexico’s infrastructure is already in place and ready to go, whereas there was still a lot of work to do in Detroit . ..

That’s not the only eerie parallel with Ireland’s bid for the Rugby World Cup. Money came into play as well in the final round of voting, which Detroit lost. The difference? Mexico City convinced the IOC that it would be cheaper to send athletes to their city than to Detroit.

In latter years Detroit has plumbed the depths and gone bankrupt, and sometimes people there wonder what might have happened to the city’s history if it had won the Games in ’68.

I’m sure nobody feels like that here. Do they?

John Updike really was a man of letters

I see that a book of John Updike’s letters is on the way.

In addition to being a super-prolific novelist, short story writer, reviewer and essayist, Updike somehow found time to write thousands of letters not just to “editors, translators, publicists, critics, journalists and fellow writers”, says the book’s editor, James Shiff, “What is remarkable is how often and generously he responded to letters from readers, fans and complete strangers.

“It’s surprising how often Updike responded, with comments and advice, when a reader, whether a sophomore in high school or an 85-year-old retiree, sent him a short story or poems to critique.

“He also responded to a stranger who asked him to write a note of encouragement to his nine-year-old son who suffered from psoriasis (as Updike did). To respond as often and as generously as he did is, I think, highly unusual.”

And a little... obsessive. Take a night off, for God’s sake.


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