Belfast Telegraph

Rugby out of this world

By Billy Weir

There is no truth in the rumour that Marty McFly is currently hurtling at 88mph in his DeLorean destined for October 16, 2015 because he wants to experience a time when Northern hemisphere rugby dominance was on the cards.

As it turns out all four of the flux capacitors guiding Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France (England's had packed up some time earlier) were knackered and by Sunday the prospect of northern delights was as likely as Craig Joubert being asked to turn on Edinburgh's Christmas lights.

Wales were first to succumb, trampled underfoot by a herd of rampaging Springboks, while France showed all the fight they are famous for by being treated very badly by the All Blacks.

Sunday though offered more hope, an Argentinean victory as likely as George McFly battering Biff Tannen while the Wallabies were hardly shaking in their flip-flops at the prospect of treading on a few Thistles.

And therein lies the problem, nicknames. The Southern Hemisphere has Wallabies, Pumas, Springboks and the All Blacks, who are also Kiwis and they can give you a nasty nip, while what do we have to offer? A shamrock, a rose, a thistle and some feathers, while France have a cockerel, perfect for stuffing as it turned out.

Ireland were taking no chances, wheeling out the big guns for the day, with ITV presenter Craig Doyle joined by Brian O'Driscoll and even enlisting some inspirational pre-match hype from Barry McGuigan.

We should have known better, BOD turned up in a sky blue shirt and Barry turned from boxing great to philosopher.

"Nerves are like fire, you can use fire to heat your house, if you let it get out of hand it will burn your house down and you," warned the Clones Cyclone, and we all remembered how warm it was when he lost to Steve Cruz in 1986. If only he had set the date differently on the DeLorean.

"Make your own history," he implored, throwing the flux capacitor out the window. "These guys can go all the way." Aye, all the way back to Dublin, which is closer than you think to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

"It's only 68 miles from Dublin to the Welsh coast, it feels an awful lot closer than that," said Doyle, while we handed over to commentator Martin Gillingham for some pre-travel advice.

"Ireland's ship was buffeted by France last weekend, four key men including the captain lost overboard and now looking to sail into, what is for them, uncharted waters," he said.

It didn't go exactly smoothly though, 14-0 down in the blink of an eye but Gillingham wasn't throwing the towel in just yet.

"Joe Schmidt's Irish passport came through a couple of weeks before the start of the World Cup, if he manages to mastermind Ireland's survival from 14 points down, I reckon by Monday he'll be able to graze his own sheep on College Green," he said.

The green sward of Dublin remained free of woolly friends though, as unlike Dr Emmet Brown, Schmidt didn't have a Plan B, although a man in a green tracksuit with white hair was spotted dangling off Cardiff Town Hall praying for a thunderstorm.

If he'd harnessed some of the 1.21 gigawatts of power being shown in the Argentinean coaching booth they would have been back in the Liffey in a jiffy although in their matching grey pullovers they had more a look of the Ronnie Corbett Appreciation Society than World Cup semi-finalists.

"A sobering experience for all the Irish fans watching at home on their televisions and in the stadium and, let's be honest, in the studio here too," confessed Doyle, destined for something stronger than a cup of tea. Ah go on, go on, go on.

And so all hopes rested with the great Scots. Stop sniggering at the back. They had wheeled out the big guns too, the Queen of Caledonia, Nicola Sturgeon and a more established royal in the shape of Princess Anne, who had the presence of mind to come dressed as a tin of shortbread.

In the interests of balance and with the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry having already nailed their colours to the mast in the tournament, the only surprise was that they hadn't forced Prince Edward to come out to support the Aussies bedecked in gold hot pants, flip-flops and a hat with corks dangling from it.

John Inverdale, never one to look a gift Aberdeen Angus in the mouth, had delved into his Big Boy's Book of Scotchness for his opening gambit.

"Will the Wallabies be sent home to think again? This is rugby's final quarter-final referendum and we're all waiting for Scotland to make its mind up," he said and we all thought there was more chance of him going out on a date with Marion Bartoli.

"So, the party goes on, but now not only have the hosts departed so have most of the neighbours," began smug commentator Jon Champion smugly.

"Who would have thought Scotland would be the last European team standing?" he further mused but he was almost made to eat his words with one of the craziest games of rugby ever at Twickenham, and in typical Scottish manner a heroic defeat and for once they couldn't even blame the English.

South African referee Joubert awarded Australia a contentious last-gasp penalty, for handball I think, and before the ball had skelped somebody knocking his Tam O'Shanter off, he was off like a scalded Springbok on a hoverboard.

"And sport sometimes leaves you speechless," concluded Inverdale, which isn't handy as a presenter but what else is there to say about Northern Hemisphere rugby?

Time to go back to the future I say, set the timer for Japan September 6, 2019, and more disappointment here we come.

Belfast Telegraph


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