Sport Rugby

Saturday 19 October 2019

IRFU cap on overseas stars a step in right direction

Saturday View

Sean Diffley

as Oscar Wilde remarked, "an unbiased opinion is always absolutely valueless" and I am in favour, more or less and on principle, with the latest effusion from the IRFU -- a body of gentlemen who are running the game in this country streets ahead of any of the other major rugby nations.

As you all will know by now, the IRFU is moving to curtail the number of foreigners in our provincial squads. The move's objective is to nurture promising Irish talent, allowing them 'game time' with the aim of augmenting the Irish team.

Players from south of the equator, who are ineligible for Ireland but hold down too many provincial places, clearly upset the IRFU's grand plans for Ireland's progress.

Of course, such a strategy has not met with the same level of approval by provincial coaches, who understandably have rather different aims.

But in my humble, meek, diffident -- oh, all right -- biased perspective, the Ireland team must come first. No doubt, the IRFU's judgment has been reinforced by a recent national poll in which 80pc of respondees claimed an interest in sport: 30.9 listed soccer as their favourite, 20.9 Gaelic, and, remarkably, 20.5 declared rugby their prime sporting interest.

Those of us who reported on rugby inter-provincials in the past were wont to claim that spectator interest was often confined to a man and a couple of dogs. The change that has taken place is unmistakable. Games are now attended by vast crowds of up to 80,000 people. So much for the old Cinderella sport.

Incidentally, someone should gently whisper the unknown word 'manners' to some of those who attend Lansdowne Road when an opponent of Leinster is taking a penalty kick.

And what now and the new moves? Nothing revolutionary in the short term, certainly, but things could be expressed a bit more lucidly. But it will all take a bit more time -- and at least all sides of the argument are not behind the bushes in pontificating on the issues.

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It is all a long way from the old days when Lansdowne Road was a beehive of "no comment" and "publish that if you wish".

A letter in these pages from Richard Lawrence, a New Zealander resident here, takes me to task for referring to the All Blacks as "over-rated" and provides a list of All Blacks successes down the years to counteract my opinion.

I think Richard has missed the point. I wasn't so silly as to "over-rate" the All Blacks down the centuries. I was referring to the recent World Cup where, I suspect Richard would agree, the All Blacks were much less impressive than expected. Standards weren't good.

I don't think "over-rated" is an inappropriate term for the recent World Cup.

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