So many rudderless English chariots have drifted away on the Liffey over the years they must now pose a danger to shipping in the Irish Sea.
Another Red Rose expedition buoyed by lofty ambition ended with a few more being sold down the river in Dublin last night, each and everyone broken by the burden of trying to carry a Grand Slam home.
Ever since they socked it to Wales in Cardiff, English expectation has been heading for the stratosphere while conveniently overlooking the awkward fact that the opposition had a monopoly of the torpedo market as cornered by Jonny Sexton.
That suggested Ireland had more in the way of hardware than the Franco-Spanish armadas had at Trafalgar or else Admiral Nelson would have throttled back on the motivational stuff.
Besides, had Sexton not already holed one English Slam amidships, at the same venue four years earlier? Few, if any, of the prize guys in the punditry business made any mention of that, nor of learning the lessons of history.
England, according to Clive Woodward, were going to win by five points – no ifs or buts about it. His successor, Andy Robinson, went further pre- tournament uncharacteristically so, predicting the first Red Rose Slam since he and Woodward were in charge at Lansdowne Road in 2003 – two years after Keith Wood had picked another Slam out of their pockets.
An English win yesterday with home matches against Scotland and France to follow would have virtually settled the whole Six Nations caboodle. Only Ireland can achieve that now but Wales are already rubbing their hands in the belief the title could yet be theirs. A fourth straight win over the pitiful French and England’s defeat yesterday added up to a perfect weekend for the Red Dragon brotherhood. The way they see it, a home win over Ireland on Saturday week would make them serious contenders.
French don’t have the bottle
Legend has it that Lucien Mias demolished half a bottle of brandy the night before he led France to their first Test series victory over the Springboks, in Johannesburg in 1958. It was, quite literally, what the doctor ordered.
Had the most revered of Gallic captains, long retired from his medical practice and now in his mid-80s, seen Saturday night’s flop in Paris, he could have been forgiven for pouring himself another half-bottle.
How those of us with long memories of wondrous French tries weep for what they have become and how the game has suffered. The most damning indictment of all is that beating France these days does not require anything magical or momentous.
Wales, fortified by a solid scrum and a lineout restored to full working order, proved the point on Saturday without ever being in danger of losing. All they needed was a sleight of hand as conjured up by Danny Lydiate for Dan Biggar to score their only try.
Tommaso — the Scot who finished on the winning side
George Biaghi went to the same posh Edinburgh school as Tony Blair – Fettes College where annual fees amount to €40,000. At Murrayfield on Saturday he was in a class all by himself as the only native Scot to finish on the winning side.
The blurring of boundaries is nothing new in rugby but only the Six Nations could come up with an Italian lock born and bred in the Ayrshire seaside town of Irvine. It has produced a few international footballers – Steve Nicol (Liverpool), Alex Parker (Everton) and Kris Boyd (Rangers).
Biagi, son of a Scots’ father and Italian mother, is the first international rugby player from Irvine which happens to be home-town of Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
The SNP will doubtless take a dim view of a Scot belting out Fratelli d’Italia and a dimmer view of another Italian player who used to wear the thistle and sing Flower of Scotland.
Two years ago Tommy Allan scored 16 points, including the first try, in Scotland’s U20 win over Italy at Galashiels. Shortly afterwards, Italy team boss Gino Troiani persuaded him to switch allegiance to Italy for the valid reason he was born in his mother’s hometown, Vicenza.
Scotland rang later the same day in the hope of talking him into staying with the land of his father’s birth. Tommy reverted to Tommaso. And who should convert Italy’s winning last-minute try with the final kick of the match? Tommaso Allan.
Clancy reads riot act on scrum issues
George Clancy addressed each front row before kick-off in an attempt to pre-empt any scrum issues. As the first one went down, he had to address them again.
‘We have to get this right,’ he said. That took two minutes which would have been bad enough had the front rows got it right.
By the third scrum, Clancy was sounding a tad weary: ‘The attitude is really poor. Can you follow the simple instructions?’ And after the sixth scrum: ‘I can’t manage it any more.’
The non-anthem singing school
Eoin Morgan has been absurdly criticised in some quarters for not singing God Save The Queen in his capacity as England’s cricket captain.
The Dubliner may be interested to learn the weekend Six Nations cast included several graduates from the same non-anthem singing school. For whatever reason, Taulupe Faletau and Scott Baldwin kept their mouths shut during the Welsh anthem in Paris. And they were joined in Dublin yesterday, as per usual, by the Trappist-like Ulster contingent. Footballers – English, Welsh, Irish – are notorious for not singing their anthems, or at best mumbling them which brings me to Terry Mancini, ex-QPR and Arsenal.
A Maltese-Cockney, the Republic picked him for a World Cup soccer qualifier against Poland at Lansdowne Road in 1973 on the strength of his having an Irish mother.
As the story goes, Mancini is standing next to the manager, Johnny Giles, for the pre-match formalities. “Cor blimey, love a duck guv, this bleedin’ Polish anthem ain’t have going on a bit’’ he says to Giles out of the corner of his mouth. ‘Shut up,’ says Giles. ‘It’s ours....’
Jarvis clocks up the quickest of caps
The race for the briefest international appearance on record has a new leader. Given the myriad of ever later substitutions, it is sometimes difficult to keep up, but Wales’ substitute tighthead Aaron Jarvis is now out in front after entering the fray in Paris with 25 seconds left on the clock. Loann Goujon, the La Rochelle back row forward, had made the running since replacing Thierry Dusautoir in the opening round with 40 seconds to go.
Jarvis will take some beating but do not rule it out.
Vern downbeat after wooden performance
Vern Cotter is finding out the hard way about the harsh realities of life as Scotland’s head coach. ‘’I’m obviously not getting the message across,’’ the Kiwi said after Italy had deservedly won at Murrayfield, 3-1 on tries.
What seems almost as obvious as the message falling on deaf ears is that Vern will not finish the tournament empty-handed. A Six Nations wooden spoon awaits, as it did for Frank Hadden, Matt Williams and Andy Robinson.
Haimona perfects magnificent seven
Italy’s bulky fly half Kelly Haimona has come up with something new — the seven-point penalty.
When his kick rebounded from an upright, Giovanbattista Venditti twisted round the padded post for a converted try.
Hardly that difficult!
BBC pundit Jonathan Davies at the Stade de France:
‘’This is a very difficult place to come and win.’’
So difficult that France have now lost there six times during the last two years – to New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Argentina and Wales, twice.
Team of the weekend
15. Luke McLean (Italy)
14. George North (Wales)
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Jack Nowell (England)
10. Jonny Sexton (Ireland)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
1. Matias Aguero (Italy)
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
3. Samson Lee (Wales)
4. Josh Furno (Italy)
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
6. Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
7. Tommy O’Donnell (Ireland)
8. Sergio Parisse (Italy).
READ MORE: VOTE: Top Three Tries – 6 Nations Round 3
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved