Enda McEvoy's TV View: Don't mention the war as pundits suffer RWC PTSD

Don’t mention the war? It would be nice not to have to but Ireland’s Six Nations opener takes place in the engorging shadow of last autumn’s ill-starred Asian campaign. Yes, we won’t be forgetting the debacle in Vietnam – sorry, I mean Japan – any time soon. The horror, the horror remains fresh in the memory.

Enda McEvoy's TV View: Don't mention the war as pundits suffer RWC PTSD

Don’t mention the war? It would be nice not to have to but Ireland’s Six Nations opener takes place in the engorging shadow of last autumn’s ill-starred Asian campaign. Yes, we won’t be forgetting the debacle in Vietnam – sorry, I mean Japan – any time soon. The horror, the horror remains fresh in the memory.

If a measure of PTSD is visible at the Aviva, then, it will be no surprise. Schmidt happened – some awful Schmidt, frankly - in the Land of the Rising Sun; fortunately a new regime is in place, with Andy Farrell as head coach, Mike Catt as attack coach, and a chap with the splendid name of Caelan Doris at number eight. Bring on a fresh beginning. Call in those helicopters with their rockets. Turn Wagner up to 11.

Ronan O’Gara hasn’t forgotten anything. He keeps getting flashbacks of Tokyo and they’re “horrendous”. Poor Ronan. Lucky viewer, mind; as this is Virgin Media One rather than RTÉ, we have Ronan and Dave McIntyre and Alan Quinlan as opposed to Jamie Heaslip and his babble about biscuit plays and states of group flow. Phew.

Princess Anne is here, singing along to Flower of Scotland. The thought occurs, not for the first time, why anyone would want to celebrate the fact that proud Edward was sent hamewards tae think again, upon which he did think again and proceeded to come back and hammer the bejasus out of the Scots for the rest of his life. Then again, perhaps better for Irish folk to avoid the subject of pre-match anthems, right?

Off we go. On a day when, still smarting after Yokohama, where Ireland took them for three tries in the opening quarter, Scotland will hit hard and hit often, poor Doris departs the scene after only four minutes. Not a debut to remember, if indeed he can after the belt he shipped. Blithely undeterred, Ireland take a 7-3 lead following a neat playbook move, all loops and legerdemain, that ends with Johnny Sexton crossing. The paw prints of the attack coach are all over the play. ‘Cos they’ve got Catt class and they’ve got Catt style’.

It’s early doors in the Farrell regnum but already Shane Jennings, alongside Dave and Alan in the commentary box, is excited. “I’d been wondering would we see anything different when we got into the 22. Exciting times ahead if they are that creative. We haven’t seen that for a while.”

Steady on, Shane. Soon it’s back to 7-6 and it’s becoming clearer with every minute that Scotland are not going to be horsed around the place like they were in the World Cup. Proceedings will finish with no fewer than three men in green having been carried off injured. This is a day for grunt work.

At half-time Ronan observes that for all their possession Scotland lack a killing streak. Matt Williams deconstructs the try on-screen with more arrows than hit Saint Sebastian. Asked to diagnose what’s different about Farrell’s Ireland, Shane Horgan points to a greater degree of animation in the opposition 22.

Back to the action. The picture cuts to pitchside, where Doris is talking enthusiastically to a lady – first name presumably not Doris - with a head, a mane, a veritable waterfall of long blonde hair. Dave notes that Doris (male) has “a smile on his face”. He’s talking to a hot chick, Dave. Of course he’s got a smile on his face.

The second half trundles on. The hosts are always in front, their opponents always within striking distance. The hinge moment occurs when Stuart Hogg, the visiting skipper, crosses the Irish line but, in a schoolboy error that would make a schoolboy recoil, drops the ball instead of grounding it. O captain my captain! Ronan was right. No killing streak.

Under severe pressure for the final ten minutes, Ireland just about fall over the finishing line. The panel do their best not to come across as underwhelmed. They fail handsomely.

Shane, who’d been looking for green and white shoots of recovery, “saw a couple of shoots – but not as many as I’d have liked”. Ronan witnessed “one try in 80 minutes on a fine afternoon for rugby” and is similarly undisposed to essay a jig. The visitors, they agree, made “an incredible amount” of errors; Wales, they agree some more, will not do likewise next weekend. “[The absent] Finn Russell and that try and Scotland win,” Shane asserts.

At least Farrell is beaming. “We’re trying to stand for something and it’s clear what we stand for. Guts. The players were dropping like flies but they put their bodies on the line. Effort. The rest we can build on.”

Don’t mention the war? For the next week, we won’t have to.

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