Thursday 23 November 2017

Aussies see how the other half lives

We have learned lots about hierarchy on this tour, like the way weaker nations have to back up from one game to the next without having time to draw breath, while the big guns -- including Ireland -- have time to rest.

You'll be glad to know that sometimes justice is done. For example, when Ireland landed in classically wet and windy Wellington last Monday they were ferried to the best lodgings in town, and given access to the closest training ground.

As a punishment for crawling out of the pool a distant second, the Aussies were given an inferior hotel and told to drag their sorry asses out to Poriroa which is a good half hour out of town. Given that they had enjoyed exactly the opposite on their previous visit to Wellington -- to play the US who were given the silver medal treatment that time -- it seemed only fitting.

Better still, in our dismal hotel we came across some Aussie colleagues who were snuggling up two to a room. In these straitened times we are almost afraid to mention this for fear it catches on. It shouldn't.

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The Ireland squad may be staying in what's deemed to be the best rugby hotel in town but it would be a good deal better if it could devote less manpower to security and more to finding a room big enough to host a press conference.

It hardly came as a great surprise that the team announcements for the quarter-finals would bring extra media, yet the InterContinental in Wellington expected everyone to cram into the same space. For some reason that space was lessened further by IRFU committee men, one of whom was snapping away like a tourist. We counted four of them there, and between committee and office staff so far we've come across no fewer than eight at some point. So how many are out here, and at what cost?

We are told three members of the 'senior management committee' have been included in Ireland's RWC budget. Eh, why? And is it really necessary to fly out so many blazers at all? As volunteers they give up their time and deserve some payback, but it is a ludicrous expense to have so many here. Incidentally, one of them we spoke to admitted to being bored out of his skull. It's a hard life.

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Never far away from our thoughts here is the return trip next June when Ireland will play three Tests, plus a couple of midweek games.

Don't dwell on where they will find the bodies for this and instead consider the itinerary. It looks like two of the Tests will go to Auckland and Dunedin, with the third farmed out to a provincial venue like New Plymouth or Hamilton.

Of course the Kiwis are hot to trot with the midweek action as they're desperate to make a few bob. On one hand it would make sense to pit the tourists against Super Rugby franchises who will be taking June off next season, during the Test window, and this would be the ideal gap-filler. But it might be less daunting for Ireland to go to a province outside the Super Rugby network. Either way, Ireland will need a squad of about 36. And that's before you start sending for replacements.

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The red card shown to Samoa's Paul Williams against South Africa has been up there with the gum shields and loose gobs for space in the media.

Perhaps because Williams is the son of All Black legend Bryan, current president of the NZRU, the Kiwi commentators have all ridden to the rescue. Heinrich Brussow, the Bok he slapped, has been depicted as dishonest for hitting the deck so fast. We have a low tolerance for those who keel over without just cause, but the frustration on Brussow's face as he tried to shake off Williams -- who was grabbing his jersey illegally -- was a picture in itself. Why is it that the IRB's refs manager Paddy O'Brien cannot get his men to do something useful about rugby's latest scourge: the hangers-on?

Brendan Fanning

Sunday Indo Sport

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