Wednesday 21 March 2018

AIL out in force Down Under

We have established that New Plymouth isn't up there with Rio de Janeiro in the crime stats and we wonder how much that has to do with its boys in blue. Not one but two former AIL enforcers are earning a crust in that region as keeper of the peace.

Pound-for-pound Dean Oswald was one of the most valuable imports to the Irish game, and Leinster got as much value out of the No 8 as Blackrock, who brought him to Dublin. To describe him as uncompromising is like saying the weather in Auckland is changeable.

We remember Oswald on a freezing night in King Country in 1997 when he popped along -- in his shorts and flip flops -- to watch Brian Ashton's Ireland against the locals. He fetched up in his Rock jersey the other day to hook up with Eddie O'Sullivan who would have coached him in 'Rock.

Meanwhile, a mile up the road at the media centre former Clontarf second-row Philip Quinn caused a few uncomfortable moments when he arrived with a colleague, both of them in uniform, looking like they were pursuing a suspect. We pity the poor crim who stumbles into Oswald and Quinn in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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You might remember the 'Flying Pig' controversy of 2002? To recap, that was the title given the adidas ball by All Blacks outhalf, Andrew Mehrtens. And Ronan O'Gara concurred. We have had a few close things with the ABs over the years of unremitting defeat and that first Test in Dunedin was one of them as O'Gara scored just two of many shots on goal. The ball was a disaster, plain and simple.

Fast-forward to this tournament and we've had a bit of ball talk over the first week, with Jonnies Wilkinson and Sexton missing routine kicks.

Much as we love conspiracies, this ain't one of them. Without getting too technical, a new bladder and valve improve the capacity to maintain the right pressure throughout the game, and to improve the quality of spin.

Moreover, it's been in use since the November Internationals last year and throughout the Six Nations and Tri Nations tournaments since then. And no complaints. Maybe it's the Kiwi livery that's putting people off?

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We were a little unnerved by Ireland's choice of hotel in Auckland. As in, it had a Bordeaux feel to it. The theme of Ireland's current campaign is to do everything differently to four years ago. Back then, their miserable experience started with a hotel stuck in an industrial zone on the outskirts of town. And now they are in, eh, a hotel by a lake on the outskirts of town. With not a lot going on in that neighbourhood.

By contrast, the Wallabies were in the Crowne Plaza, smack in the middle of Auckland's CBD.

Worse still, the place is haunted by ghosts of 1997. Ireland stayed here on their development spin to these parts, and rested up at Waipuna for the game with New Zealand Academy. Players from that trip are still getting counselling.

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Quade Cooper has been the point of greatest interest here given his recent escape for whacking Richie McCaw in the Tri Nations -- a capital crime in New Zealand -- and, of course, the fact that he is a Kiwi himself, coming from the same neck of the woods as Isaac Boss.

He was referred to very unkindly a few days ago by a former Wallabies World Cup-winning captain, Nick Farr Jones. Which prompted the following question at a packed Australia team announcement:

Q: "Quade how do you react to being called a boofhead by Nick Farr Jones?"

A: "Aw, I take the positives out of it . . ."

A boofhead is Aussie slang for someone who does not always make the best decisions in life.

Brendan Fanning

Sunday Indo Sport

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