So Joe Schmidt had a cunning plan after all.
That underwhelming Six Nations campaign? It was never his target in a World Cup year. The recent Twickenham hammering? When we finally get to hear Donal Lenihan properly he reveals he was talking to one of the players, they’d been in Portugal for nine days beforehand “and it was hell”.
Turns out Joe was keeping his powder dry for the rains of Yokohama and right from the off it explodes in Scotland’s face. James Ryan, try. Rory Best, who will be an older man before the evening is out, try. Tadhg Furlong, try. After 25 minutes it’s 19-3 and Ireland are home and hosed.
Back to Montrose and Daire O’Brien’s three-man panel. Each of the trio is fluent in his native tongue. Eddie O’Sullivan in Cork-ese, Stephen Ferris in Ulster-ese and Jamie Heaslip in purest Marketing-ese.
Jamie: “The goys. Singing off the same heat (CORRECT) sheet. Blah. A state of group flow.” Daire: “A state of what?”
A state of group flow, whatever that is, and frankly it’s an image some viewers will not be keen to pursue. Later on Ireland will enact what Jamie terms “a biscuit play through the middle”. Neither Daire nor anyone else out there has the slightest clue what this might entail.
For Scotland to get back into it, Eddie says, “they’ll need chaos to reign, which it didn’t in the first half.” Chaos does not reign in the second half; rain reigns. “You can’t see it on the screen but the rain is horrendous,” declares Donal. Ireland maybe home but both teams are being power-hosed.
The flow has gone out of the game, he adds, which suits the men in green. We’re in a state of communal anti-group flow, presumably. The rain suits them too. Better to be defending a lead in these conditions than to be trying to chip away at it.
“I met some optimistic former internationals beforehand,” Donal goes on in expansive tones. “Promising much and delivering little.” He’s talking about Scotland at the World Cup; he might as easily have been talking about Ireland at the World Cup.
Scotland huff and puff for 15 minutes. Ireland’s first attack of the half sees Andrew Conway scamper over in the corner. Clinical stuff. Donal points out that Schmidt’s team can now control the pool, buy time for the injured players and move on. Scott Hastings had wandered over to Donal and Hugh Cahill at half-time. He wasn’t a happy man. “What will Scott Hastings be like at the final whistle?” wonders Hugh, trying not to giggle.
The full-time hooter goes, except it’s a gong. We are in Japan, after all. Sadly there’s no sign of Hastings but the scoreboard reads 27-3. Donal is already looking forward to a quarter-final against South Africa.
We’ll keep New Zealand for the final.
He’s clearly joking but Hugh isn’t taking any chances. “If we get that far,” he interjects hastily.
Pity poor Rory Best. He may have scored a try but it’s all downhill from there. He ends up playing the whole game, an occurrence so unusual that even the referee is moved to comment on it to him in the closing stages. Afterwards he’s reminded by the interview guy that he has become Ireland’s “oldest World Cup player”. If looks could kill…
“A complete demolition job,” is Eddie’s verdict. Stephen confesses to having been nervous beforehand (“you never know with Scotland, you think this might be an ambush”). Like Donal they’re looking forward to a date with South Africa.
Survive the inevitable “full frontal assault” from the Springboks in the first 20 minutes and Ireland should be okay. Just as long as the goys are in a state of group flow and singing off the same heat sheet, obviously. Roysh?