Uh Oh. The IRFU have really done it now. They’ve just gone and put a nose seriously out of joint. And not just any old hooter but that of The Sunday Times chief rugby writer Stephen Jones.
Uh Oh. The IRFU have really done it now. They’ve just gone and put a nose seriously out of joint. And not just any old hooter but that of The Sunday Times chief rugby writer Stephen Jones. In a quite extraordinary article, Jones labels the IRFU as one of the most smug rugby countries’ and claims Ireland have never produced a truly great side and don’t look as though they’re about to now. So there.
On a quick scan, it reads like a crushing blow to Irish pride. Look again and it becomes clear that his eminence penned the diatribe while somewhat dazed and confused.
Take one example : he questions Clive Woodward’s decision to pick Nick Duncombe – then in the same breath concedes that Woodward’s “predilection for chucking in callow youth” uncovered the glittering diamond that is Jonny Wilkinson.
He then declares that it is all very well Woodward declaring he [Duncombe] is ready but there is simply no evidence yet either way.Was there much more evidence when Woodward first chose Wilkinson? Did he ask Jones’ advice first?
But getting back to the real irritant in his life. Those pesky Irish. They – the IRFU – have pots of money, he says, but refuse to build a new stadium.
For one thing, the IRFU have not been idle in this regard as anyone remotely acquainted with the Sports Campus Ireland controversy here will be aware. In the meantime, we’re happy enough, thanks, with the unique spirit of Lansdowne Road which is sadly absent from other more sophisticated venues.
Furthermore, he berates the IRFU for not spending much money knocking on the doors of housing estates and disadvantaged areas in order to break Irish rugby out of its relentlessly middle-class confines (Limerick excepted).. So we must assume then that his Irish colleagues never told him about the Tallaght Strategy launched by our Minster for Sport two years ago as a pilot scheme for non-traditional rugby- playing areas. I’m not sure either that Limerick will thank him for characterising it as a unique pottage of housing estates and disadvantaged areas.
To more immediate matters and the forthcoming game against England. He claims that there is nowhere on the field “where Irish dominance is guaranteed” – then talks of how Humphreys has injected pace into the Irish game; how the midfield of O’Driscoll and Maggs is a threat even to the relentless thump of England’s outstanding defence, and that we have two class players in Eric Miller and Simon Easterby. Two class players, mind you, out of a trio – plus Peter Stringer – all earlier dismissed as strictly non sensational.
The same Peter Stringer, by the way, who is on Dean Richards’ shopping list for next season and just one element of a mix that Mr Jones finally admits (but lost in his third last paragraph, mark you) is enough to suggest that England will be tested .
So where, you have to ask, is the writer coming from – apart from being a Welsh man?
Could it have something to do with Graham Henry’s removal as Welsh coach (Stephen Jones laments the departure of the Wales coach, page 16, same paper), and Ireland’s part in that process?.
He cannot conceal his disgust over Ireland’s scoring 50 points against – wait for it – 15 men in red jerseys (let’s not call them the Welsh team).
Unworthy and deeply hurtful as that remark was, it set the tone for the mean-spirited article that followed and paved the way for his later comment that all the Irish players fit to be termed great have had to become so by playing for the Lions. So where does that leave players like Peter Clohessy and Simon Geoghegan who were deprived of that honour only through injury ?
And where does it all leave the chief rugby writer of the Sunday Times who – what with his festering resentment of all things Irish, plus the 15 men in red jerseys, not to mention the disrespectful Woodward fellow who upbraided him in Murrayfield – is fast running out of Six Nations teams to ridicule.
Watch out, Scotland, France and Italy – Captain Mannering is on the warpath.