No shocks in England leaks

THE payoff may be later than a Wesley Snipes credit card bill, but this week the Rugby World Cup finally produced some of the entertainment it had promised as the mole in the RFU delivered a funnier script featuring a dwarf than Ricky Gervais appears to have managed.

It’s almost as if six interminable weeks of pick and drive, that drew winter upon us with every passing moment, was worth it after all.

The litany of recrimination and excuses from the England camp makes priceless reading. It wasn’t cool to train hard. They never told us how much we could drink. Tinds was only in that state because he lost the drinking games.

The irony won’t be lost on Roy that anyone who took things seriously at a World Cup was laughed at and branded a “keano”. But were there any true shocks in the ‘dossiers of shame’ uncovered this week?

Certainly better judges of rugby than me, having gritted their teeth and exposed themselves to gruelling live footage of England in action, seem resolutely unsurprised by suggestions that their attacking coach was clueless or that the game plan was a bit random. Or that senior players were being selected regardless of form.

Picking through the other player complaints, we are supposed to be shocked to the core by revelations that some counted the cost of defeat by France. “To hear one senior player in the changing room say straight after the quarter-final defeat ‘There’s £35k just gone down the toilet’ made me feel sick.”

But if one of these guys laughed off a hit in the pocket like that, they’d be slammed as out of touch with the man on the street, so we’ll cut them some slack on this charge. In any case, being motivated by money isn’t really a problem as long as it does get you motivated.

Are we shocked by the drinking? (“If it’s the senior players leading drinking games or drinking until they can’t remember anything, what example are the younger players set?”) Notreally, since some of us were under the impression that sculling 20 pints out of a tighthead’s jockstrap remained a compulsory bonding exercise on all rugby tours.

Other than that, the document reads like the kind of crib sheet any mid-sized company would come up with if it was brave enough to canvas honest opinions from frustrated young employees.

Promotion is based on seniority. Nothing happens at meetings. Some people just swan around playing golf. We’re sick of listening to nonsensical jargon.

Which all stands as some consolation to those of us who will never go to a World Cup and instead will be stuck in brown-bag breakout sessions where some synergies are run up the flagpole.

Of course, we’re mentioned in the document too. But can we be truly shocked either that the perception exists out there that Irish players get a rather softer ride from our own media?

“Ireland had been in there [the Altitude Bar in Queenstown] and were much worse, but I think they might have taken the press with them.”

The lack of coverage devoted to Ireland’s sanctioned night off contrasts sharply with the scrutiny enjoyed by our footballers after hours. But there was a time too when the footballers were left alone. Give our media a chance, we’ve just finished creating the impression that Ireland is “rugby country”, that if you cut us we bleed rugby, that our blood cells are oval-shaped. It’s a bit soon to be picking at the scabs.

Unfortunately for the English lads, their game seems to have evolved to that special place where the media are lined up outside the tent with flies loosened and bladders full.

“The English press seemed to want us to mess up,” one poor soul complains, fresh from a day inside Wayne Rooney’s head.

And that, of course, is the terrible, nagging fear driving much of the snootier hand-wringing across the water. Matt Dickinson in The Times described it as “the dreaded notion among rugby followers that their valiant heroes are turning into footballers. And for many rugby stalwarts, there is no worse fate”.

All of which could pose some financial problems for the RFU. Recall the words of O2 chief Nic Fletcher as the company talked of a further shift towards rugby in its sponsorship focus. “There have been lots of unsavoury football news articles recently and that is not in the same degree in rugby and the traditional values it stands for.”

That picture has now changed. And just as with some of its players, it’s likely to be financial implications that focus minds at the RFU.

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