Thursday 5 December 2019

Billy Keane: 'Endangered number tens need to become a protected species'


Munster fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal sees his kick charged down by Lloyd Ashley of Ospreys during Saturday night’s game at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Munster fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal sees his kick charged down by Lloyd Ashley of Ospreys during Saturday night’s game at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Munster have Fate figured out. The trick is to leave the last twist go so late that Fate hasn't time to mess up the game. This time Munster scored the bonus point try in the fourth minute of injury time.

Such was the momentum of that last Munster maul, the siege engine would have flattened down the terraces and driven a gaping hole through the steel reinforced back wall of the Liberty Stadium.

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The extra bonus point may well be the one that gets us into the quarter-finals. Such is Fate.

The Ospreys were missing so many players that it has to be the ideal time to play them. Future visitors to The Liberty may face a tougher task.

The sofa needs to be restrung. I checked the counter on the phone. Neil Armstrong took more steps on the moon. There's a comfort that comes from certainty. The provinces, Europe and lazy sofa Saturdays have now become as much a part of our wintering as wrapping up, slow-cooked stews and long walks through resting woods.

But will there come a time when out-halves will cease to be? Tens are the corncrakes of rugby. Check out the injury profiles of out-halves, if you don't believe me.


Around here the shootists hunt the pheasant on a Sunday afternoon. The hunters are fair and will not take out a sitting duck pheasant.

Here's how they hunt in rugby. The seven waits and waits. Then he speeds up to his max when the out-half passes or kicks. The out-half is open to the hit as his hands are still following through on the pass. He is as unprotected as a knight without armour.

It's all about velocity. Velocity is defined as "the rate at which an object changes its position".

Our old physics master, Mick Mulcaire, explained it best: "Velocity is speed with direction." The speeding seven changes his line of running so as to hit the ten on the opened-up rib carriage. He then uses the serial killer defence."Sorry, your honour, I couldn't help myself."

So here's why the referees have been duped into allowing cheap shots. The new rules on high tackles are rigidly enforced. The manliness lobby argue that World Rugby are taking the physicality out of the game. It's a case of 'sure it will all be forgotten', in what Dermot Morgan , alias Fr Ted, said was "the camaraderie of the intensive care unit after the game".

The refs say: "We'll let the late tackle on the out-half go unpunished as it was only a teenchy-weenchy bit late, or lateish, and rugby is a contact sport." The perpetrators don't even have to put money in the poor box.

Are you telling me a professional rugby player is unable to stop himself when he is going fast? If the sixes and sevens aren't exactly coached to take out tens, there is definitely a nod and a wink. The player abuse can rightly be described as systematic.

The interpretation of the laws of rugby facilitate the destruction of the most creative players, who just happen to be human, and humans break. The cheap shottters nearly always have a huge weight advantage. If it was boxing there would be several divisions between the big forwards and the tens.

The family have me reared now and I got in the three Saturday games as well as the racing from Cheltenham. There was a great treat when it was the mother who was in charge of rearing me. It was an egg in a mug.

If you were good your mam de-shelled the boiled egg and placed the meat in a large mug. In went a dollop of butter and seasoning of salt and pepper. The whole lot was mashed up with a fork.

The good thing is that the boiling of an egg is not unlike a furtive liaison, in that it only takes three minutes. The difference between the two procedures is the egg always turns out perfect.

Rugby has mashed up the golden egg. The golden goose is in danger.

Ulster had a great win over Bath, which brings us to one of my favourite headlines: "Johnson sent for an early shower in Bath."

If you want to watch rugby now, the punter has to buy up more TV channels than Ted Turner.

The pubs are paying a fortune for all the channels. John B's never did the extra-terrestrial. I decided a long time ago that I would not be contributing to Wayne Rooney's wages. Sometimes you have to put yourself before player welfare

The returning internationals all played well. It says something about their character and professionalism. These men have much more to give to the cause, and yes for them it is a cause.

Some of the Premiership teams rushed back their England players. They are bound by contract to their clubs. The Irish players are signed up by the IRFU and get more time to recover.

I'd worry for the English players. Irish players who have played against the All Blacks say it can take at least a month to get over it. England had just a week before the World Cup final, which is why they fell apart.

If you think about it, the World Cup is over-hyped. You can get a run of injuries just as Ireland did, or the team can dip in form, just as Ireland did.

There is a ruthlessness about now in business that forbids excuses. The big boss in some huge company will say he wants results, not excuses. The Thatcherite doctrine of no excuses has spread to sports.

To the disillusioned I would say excuses are also reasons and the day we forego empathy is the day we lose a large and constituent part of our humanity.

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