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Seeing the funny side as squad left to lament limbering up in limbo



Professional attitude: Ireland training indoors yesterday

Professional attitude: Ireland training indoors yesterday

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Professional attitude: Ireland training indoors yesterday

Nothing, perhaps, defined the modern Irish professional more than the manner in which they reacted to the news, not unexpected though still unsettling, that their Guinness Six Nations commitments would be prematurely ending.

A reaction that can also be cast into sharp relief by the memory of how their predecessors reacted, 19 years ago now, when word filtered to the class of 2001 that their Six Nations campaign had also been rudely curtailed by a virulent viral strain.​

Back then, as the snow blanketed the Wicklow training ground upon which the then unbeaten Irish side had already completed their training session, the senior cohort made an impromptu decision with which the junior element immediately acquiesced.

They went on the beer.​

Yesterday, the squad of 2020 were housed in the rather more lavish surroundings of the indoor sports campus in Abbotstown, secreted from the elements perhaps, but not the epidemic sweeping the globe and laying waste to an increasing number of sporting fixtures.​

Within moments of removing themselves from the three-quarter-length indoor rugby pitch, an IRFU official delivered the inevitable news from Paris that had been effectively decided on Sunday night; Ireland's trip to the Stade de France this Saturday was off.​

Yet, instead of plunging headlong into demob mode and decamping to the nearest boozer, the new breed of Irish professional alighted upon a very different response.​

They all did a weights session. Instead of bending the elbow, they bulged their biceps instead. Never has sticking to the process seemed so surreally apt.​

Even though the game that all their precise preparation was aligning for had been scratched, it was as if these muscled machines must maintain their optimum condition at all costs.

They know no other way of existence in a professional life where every milligram of weight and kilowatt of energy and minute of sleep is monitored and, if discovered to be incorrect, immediately adjusted.​

And, as the phrase wearily goes - and Farrell reminded us in case we had forgotten - "all we can do is control the controllable".​

"We just had a joke about it there,"​ he said.

Farrell, perhaps unwittingly indulging in the type of gallows humour one might need to rely upon in uncertain times such as these.​

"We said let's just forget about those three hours' work! We shall make sure we harness that and then we'll catch up on the bits we've missed out on in the not too distant future."​

When, with whom and against whom remains uncertain, as do most other things; Farrell was prepared for most eventualities when he began earnestly planning his maiden Six Nations voyage last December, but surely even this contingency eluded him.​

At the very least, Ireland, and many thousands of supporters, were spared the indignity of travelling to a game that all knew would be inevitably deferred, as was the case in 2012 when the French indulged in a Feydeau farce despite a pitch which remained frozen for a week before a belated postponement, minutes before kick-off.​

"It is what it is," said Farrell, whose side re-emerged as live Championship contenders in a squeezed title race following France's surprise demise in Edinburgh.

"The players are gutted."​

And so, already denied the restorative redemption of an inevitable five-pointer against Italy, Farrell and his men must now wait until the autumn - if it is indeed rescheduled for October - to reboot their title hopes.​

Conscious of how that attempt flopped in 2001, when Scotland mugged a previously unbeaten Irish, perhaps that also impacted upon the Irish players yesterday as they studiously stuck to their comfortable procedures.

Belfast Telegraph