Sport Rugby

Monday 22 April 2019

Hot date looms at end of deer rutting and rugby rucking season

Silent treatment: Conor Murray has exercised his right to keep his medical information private. Photo: Sportsfile
Silent treatment: Conor Murray has exercised his right to keep his medical information private. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The rugby season of 2018-19 is a stag party. The stated aim of a stag party, aside from wrecking the heads of already harassed and distressed publicans, is to ensure the groom gets a good send-off.

The words "a good send-off" can also be applied to a wake, but this column will not stray in to the merits or otherwise of marriage.

This time of year is the mating season for deer. The amorous stags scrum and tackle for the right to procreate.

Yes, this is the season when the clash of the ash is replaced by the clash of the rack. For those of you unfamiliar with deer lore, the rack is the term often used to describe the antlers. There is no sadder sight than a defeated stag heading off on his own to a forlorn autumn of loneliness and celibacy.

So do we wrap the rugby stags in bubble-wrap until the big day, or do we let the deer fight out every battle as if it was their last? And in the dangerous sport of rugby, the next game can be your last.

The big day is set for around this time next year when the World Cup takes place. There is every bit as much to be won this season as any other, what with Pro14, autumn internationals, the Six Nations and the Continuity Heineken Cup.

So do we take player welfare to the stage where our top guns play very little rugby, or will it be business as usual?

Conor Murray is slowly coming back to fitness. Conor has decided to keep the details of his injury private. I fully support Conor's right to privacy. It is his body, not ours.

The only problem is that the fully justified secrecy is the raw material for the manufacturing processes in the rumour factory. I have heard and read so many ridiculous stories about Conor's injury. Who makes them up? And when does supposition become fact?

Those of you who depend on and propagate social media lies for your news have reneged on your civic duty to stay informed. Where are your checks? Do you back up sources with more sources? Would you like it if your private health was the subject of absurd lies?

Buy the paper. Our people get it right nearly all of the time, and on the very rare occasions when sportswriters do get it wrong, we are subject to severe sanctions.

Turning briefly to soccer, there is no doubt but that there is common ground between marital strife and the breakdown in the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba.

Imelda Murphy, who is one of the heroines of Listowel's Tidy Town's Triumph, was a disciple of my mother's. Imelda reminded me of my mam's advice to a young woman who was having a row with the husband.

Said Mam: "If the two of ye are fighting, well then one of ye has to shut up."

The problem is, who will be the first one to keep quiet?

But rugby is the topic of the day and I think we can be fairly certain Conor Murray will not play in this week's derby.

Jonathan Sexton is also unlikely to play against Munster. I have no inside information, as there is little if any talk during derby week, but I doubt if the IRFU will allow him to start. He played against Connacht on Saturday, and there are two big European games coming up.

Jonathan would probably play in every game if he had his way. He needs about six matches to build up to top form. We need the 9/10 Sexton-Murray combination in good shape for this time next year.

There will be very few stag parties but the two friends love combat.

Joe Schmidt will put Ireland first, as he always has done. I would like to start up a campaign. It's called Joe Don't Go. And Joe is the English for Jose. I'm a Jose fan.

Proposed

I am pretty sure the All Blacks have proposed. There is no doubt that Joe is the best coach in the world. But while he has clearly fallen in love with this country, he was born and reared in New Zealand, the greatest rugby country of them all. Joe owes us nothing and we owe him so much.

And Joe is ruthless when it comes to putting Ireland first. It seems to me this season isn't so much 2018-19 but 2019-19. It's all about the World Cup.

But the Munster-Leinster derby will be full-on. Leinster have that Dublin football team look of invincibility about them. Invincibility brings inevitability.

But I wouldn't write Munster off. Our forwards are a match for any pack, here at home, or anywhere in Europe. The problem is Munster are inconsistent, and our tactical kicking game needs to improve.

The backline were excellent against an under-strength Ulster at the weekend.

Munster went very close to beating Leinster last summer in the Pro14 semi in the RDS, when an unjust scrum penalty made all the small difference.

No-one owns the old Munster motif of three crowns. So Munster Rugby had to come up with an exclusive emblem that could be protected by copyright.

And what could be a better representation of fight and might than the stag? And so it happened that Munster had a stag embroidered on their chests.

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