Saturday 21 July 2018

Comment: Why are we so surprised? It's not the first time Scotland and Wales have been fickle friends

Ireland 2023 Oversight Board chairman Dick Spring, and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, T.D., right, react during the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union announcement
Ireland 2023 Oversight Board chairman Dick Spring, and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, T.D., right, react during the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union announcement

Des Berry

We should have known. Or, at least, we shouldn't have been surprised.

Scotland and Wales have always been fickle friends. They have never been there when Ireland has really been in need. 

In fact, our greatest enemies England have often been our greatest allies.

Yet again, they showed a loyalty and kinship with the Irish in voting for a green World Cup in 2023. 

"When the chips are down, the one country that always supports Ireland is England.

"We're very grateful for that," issued IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne, in the aftermath of the vote count in London yesterday.

Not one of the other three European nations involved in the PRO14 League cast their votes for Ireland.

Travelling back to 1972, the Welsh and Scots deserted Ireland in another time of deep need.

There were troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly Belfast and Derry, from 1969 onwards, resulting in the deaths of policemen, soldiers and civilians.

The British Parachute Regiment opened fire on a group of people in Derry on January 30th, killing fourteen, in what became known as 'Bloody Sunday.'

Two days later, in Dublin, this prompted a protest which ultimately caused the British Embassy to be burned to the ground, sending off alarm bells in Britain.   

The Celtic cousins were rumoured to be dubious about the "political instability", even though this was the one and only serious incident in the capital city.

On February 10th, two days before Ireland played England, the four 'home nations' convened in London to provide assurances that there was no reason why the scheduled match with Scotland should not go ahead on February 26th.   

On February 14th, two days after Ireland defeated England 16-12 at Twickenham, Scotland informed the IRFU they had chosen not to travel.

They wavered on this opinion until confirming on February 17th they would not be crossing the Irish sea.

Ten days later, Wales followed suit in refusing to travel on the grounds of safety, offering to play the match in Cardiff or at a neutral venue.

The IRFU declined the offer.

One year later, on February 10th, England delivered on a promise to play at Lansdowne Road, despite rumours of doubts.

They walked out to a standing ovation, lasting every second of five minutes, in what was one of the most heart-warming moments of a long history between the countries.

Where Scotland and Wales had failed Ireland, England had honoured them.     

Forty-five years later, Ireland found out who their friends were once again.

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