Panel get headache after trying to pick Ireland XV to play All Blacks
Pundits struggle to pare down Schmidt’s abundance of resources
Come full-time in Chicago, Tommy Bowe presented his panel with the task of selecting the Irish team for the game against the All Blacks, a slot that Eir Sport should have had sponsored by Panadol or the like, so headachy did the deliberations leave Eddie O’Sullivan, Andrew Trimble and Peter Stringer.
Between them they suggested in or around 42 contenders for the 15 available spots; Tommy wanting three hookers and Andrew trying to squeeze five players in to his secondrow.
“There’s Dev [Devin Toner], Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, he played out of his skin tonight, Quinn Roux, he was brilliant tonight, and James Ryan – he’s only lost one game for Ireland! Och, nightmare. The secondrow debate is mental,” he concluded, his head throbbing.
Eddie was, in fairness, more decisive in the end with his selection, basically picking Leinster (“You have your blue hat on for this one,” said Tommy), but his omission of Ryan in particular left his panel-mates’ eye-brows turbo-wiggling.
Tommy also pointed out that Eddie had neglected to select Beirne, Seán O’Brien, not to mention Kieran Marmion and Jordan Larmour, as well as Bundee Aki and Dan Leavy; Eddie just about resisting pointing out that tough and all as the All Blacks are, you can’t send a team of 26 out to play them.
Rudest of health
“There’s a lot to consider,” Peter decided, the conclusion being that Irish rugby is in the rudest of health. Never mind splitting Dublin in half for Gaelic football purposes, maybe it’s time to do the same to our national rugby team, just to give our 2019 World Cup opponents a shout?
Tommy did, though, warn against such swaggering after the 54-7 triumph in Soldier Field, reminding us Italy only fielded their second string XV when even their firsts weren’t the greatest of shakes.
Still, Larmour’s twinkle toes, which will surely earn him selection for Dancing With The Stars one day, were a thing of loveliness, regardless of the string they were bedazzling. “He reminds us a bit of ourselves with that footwork,” a grinning Tommy said to Andrew, leaving Eddie and Peter in need of oxygen. “The Italian defenders were like, ‘please stop torturing us’,” said Trimble, the only surprise that Nigel Owens didn’t reproach the young fella. “I don’t think you need to do that, Jordan.”
Another highlight was that random woman who popped up on our screens not long after Tommy handed over to Connor Morris, like she had just wandered in to Soldier Field while walking the dog and had a microphone thrust in to her hands. “The weather is splendid on the field, wonderful, the sun is finding its way through the overcast cover, the grass is great, it’s very sharp and soft,” she said, before turning to look in to the camera. “And the crowd is awesome,” she said.
As one, Eir Sport viewers said: “Huh?”
And then there was that moment in the middle of the game when it seemed like Ireland and Italy had found their feminine side. “Don’t worry,” said Connor, informing us the host broadcaster had decided at that moment to show us highlights from the game between the women of New Zealand and England.
It was possibly the only moment all evening co-commentator Luke Fitzgerald fell silent, the appearance of the ladies on his monitor in the midst of the boys’ game rendering him speechless. Until then, and all the while after, if he’d been paid by the word he’d have left Warren Buffett looking like a pauper.
In fairness to the fella, he acknowledged after that he was a touch on the garrulous side, calling to mind the late, great Richie Benaud’s advice that you should “put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up”. But Luke’s far from the only offender, these days if your commentary box people fall silent for 10 seconds you just assume the sound on your telly is broken.
But there was lots to talk about, not least those eight tries. “Ireland are dipping in to that Pandora’s box of tricks,” said Connor when the sixth was scored. Pandora’s box, of course, is “a process that once begun generates many complicated problems”. Like picking Ireland’s XV for the All Blacks. Forty-two in to 15 just won’t go.
There’s Dev [Devin Toner], Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, he played out of his skin tonight, Quinn Roux, he was brilliant tonight, and James Ryan – he’s only lost one game for Ireland! Och, nightmare. The second row debate is mental