Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, says the Irish are deserved winners of the Six Nations, and should take the Grand Slam, and recommends a brilliant rugby documentary.
There were plenty of disconsolate England fans knocking around Paris on Saturday night and no wonder as Eddie Jones’ has halo slipped, temporarily they hoped, and his team have had consecutive nightmares at Murrayfield and Stade de France.
It was a different story for Ireland fans in Grafton and O’Connell Street in Dublin by all accounts and if RugbySpy was a gambling man, and he is, it will be the same story of pints and points for the Irish at Twickenham as the Six Nations reaches the final round of games.
God knows some of us who went to Paris could do with a few extra quid.
Some Red Rose supporters had the extra kick in the unmentionables of being fined 35 euros at La Plaine Stade de France for having the wrong ticket. And that was before the game – things were only going to get worse.
Some hacks got a kick in the wallet too and we have only been coming to the ground for 20 years. Maybe we have been getting away with it for two decades and a 30 quid hit might represent good value in the long run.
RugbySpy’s boss will surely cover the exes, and we will know better next time, whether England will is another matter. They have only got to sort their breakdown, defence, attack and discipline out and they have got less than a week to do it.
The fourth round of the Six Nations amounted to this. Ireland beat Scotland, who were a pale imitation of the side that knocked over England a fortnight ago, 28-8 with four tries. That meant England had to do a number on France and get a bonus point to keep the pot boiling.
They got the bonus point all right but it was the wrong sort as they went down 22-16 and their title hopes went down the gurgler.
On Sunday, Wales beat Italy 38-14, after making about a million changes, and the upshot is it is all to play for with a week to go – except for the actual trophy which will be in Dublin for the next year.
Ireland are Six Nations champs and have a shot at winning their third Grand Slam, after Karl Mullen’s heroes of 1948 and Brian O’Driscoll’s mob of 2009, when they pitch up at Twickenham against England on Saturday.
Second, third, fourth and fifth spots are all up for grabs and how the TV executives must hate that. At least they have got an Ireland clean sweep to cover.
On St Patrick’s Day, and the day after the Cheltenham Festival racing bonanza has finished, when shares in Guinness will go through the roof it is written in the stars that Ireland will win.
Not that this Ireland side should need any divine intervention. If they play anything like they have in the last three rounds, or show the Johnny Sexton-inspired nous they did in round one is Paris, then it is job done.
Away wins in the Six Nations have been rarer than a Willie Mullins-trained horse going un-backed at Prestbury Park in March so that will be the show reel play for future generations to drool over and the one that decided the tournament.
And don’t believe it when the little old Irish play the underdog card in the press this week – they are nothing of the sort. The form book will only be thrown out of the window if they choke but they have had a crack already at saying how tough it will be. Hopefully for the sake of the England fans reeling from getting stung in the pocket in Paris it will be tough.
“It’s a very strange feeling to win the championship with a game to go and so much still to play for, and we know how difficult it’s going to be with England,” Sexton said.
If they play anything like they did against France, when they burgled a 15-13 win thanks to Sexton’s drop goal, and England play anything like they have in the last two games it is also job and knock. And if the teams play at their best and worst of this season then it could be a 30-pointer that fans, English and Irish, are shelling out up to 160 quid for.
England did their best on Saturday night to make out that next weekend is not all about pooping on Ireland’s parade.
Ireland pooped on England’s Grand Slam in Dublin last year, and in 2011, and in both cases the Championship-winning celebrations were slightly muted.
It would have been great if an English player had said something along the lines of ‘they did it to us, we want to do it to them’. But you can’t have everything and England are bang up against it.
After playing their Get Out of Jail card at Stade de France Joe Schmidt’s side have been the best in the competition by a country mile. But that game was the key. Win the tight ones and the rest will follow. Under Jones England did that for two years until the last fortnight.
And consider the players who have missed some, or all, of the tournament.
Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Josh van der Flier, Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip have been hors de combat and Heaslip has already retired.
The outside centre, wearing the 13 shirt ironically, Ringrose was injured before the tournament started so Henshaw took over.
Henshaw duly got crocked, with a nasty shoulder injury, in the act of scoring a try against Italy so Munster’s Chris Farrell came in and got the man of the match gong against Wales. And then got injured.
As the luck of the Irish would have it Ringrose came back against Scotland and played the house down. That is strength in depth and that is what makes a team who can go deep in a World Cup.
Chuck in Schmidt’s coaching and they are a pretty tough nut to crack. Schmidt is not everyone’s cup of tea and Ireland do sometimes play rugby by numbers but the numbers are starting to stack up.
That is three Six Nations titles in five years under the Kiwi, a record, for Ireland, of 11 Test wins on the spin, and three consecutive bonus point victories on the trot.
Schmidt also has a win against the All Blacks, albeit in Chicago, on his green CV and he has 41 wins out of 56 in the book for the Irish including wins over all the so-called big dogs. He can coach and he has got some decent players, and a decent pool of them, to coach as well. It is whether he can turn this lot into history boys to follow in the footsteps of the 1948 and 2009 sides.
History boys or no history boys they are the best side in Europe at the moment. Slam or no Slam.
If anyone wants to know what it is like to be an outcast when you are brilliant at one sport and change to another – you should check out The Rugby Codebreakers.
If anyone wants to know what is like to be told you are not welcome at your local rugby club because you have spoken to a bloke from up north you should check out The Rugby Codebreakers.
And if anyone wants to know what it is like knowing you can’t play union for your country because your skin is the wrong colour you should check out The Rugby Codebreakers.
It is the story, brilliantly told by Carolyn Hitt, of how Welsh players got treated by their union and why many of them, in the amateur days, took the shilling up north.
Hitt goes through the entire history of why league came about in 1895, at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, and the baffling years afterwards.
It is a story of racism, snobbery and downright idiocy.
And it is brilliant.
Hitt talks to all the right people and I am not going to spike her guns here because you have got to watch it.
But the tales of Billy Boston, Gus Risman, Clive Sullivan, Roy Francis, Lewis Jones, Gareth Edwards and the rest are all in the hour slot.
For those of a certain age the day when Jonathan Davies, the glory boy of Welsh rugby union, signed for Widnes in the 13-man code in 1989 lives long in the memory.
That was front page news – and RugbySpy is English. The programme captures the whole lot and the interview with Davies is particularly pertinent to those bad old days.
It is on BBC iPlayer – catch it while you can.
It is more compelling viewing than any live rugby we saw this weekend.