Friday 27 April 2018

Lievremont's eccentricity matched by Henry and Gatland

Saturday View

Sean Diffley

Marc Lievremont, eccentric? No doubt, but the Frenchman is not the only one among rugby's College of Coaching Cardinals.

The All Blacks' Graham Henry is far from being an apostle of normality. Remember his era as the teacher of the Welsh where his aura of taciturnity became rather underwhelming in the Valleys?

Mind you, he has refrained from pontificating now in a nation that is hardly noted for verbosity and has managed to hold on to his job.

And if the All Blacks win tomorrow, he will be hailed as Saint Graham the Silent, and New Zealand can get back to work.

And in our list of eccentrics we mustn't forget Warren Gatland, whose moral standing about considering uncontested scrums is on a par, to my mind, with a young brother of mine, who, on the occasion of his first confession, addressed the priest thus: "Bless me, father, for I have sinned, this is my last confession."

The progress of Gatland is intriguing. I met him in Galway when he arrived from his native New Zealand to take up the role as coach to Galwegians.

My rather naive efforts to afford a friendly Irish welcome were rebuffed and in the subsequent few years relations didn't really improve.

His coaching role in Ireland didn't work out very well. Remember his ploy of putting virtually his entire team in the line-out near the opposition goal line?

The official story is that the IRFU dispensed with his services and he departed. The facts are that the Irish squad, particularly the senior players, lost all confidence and insisted on the change.

He seems to have navigated calmer waters since his Irish days and no longer floods the line-outs.

And this final at Eden Park tomorrow?

The advice from this ancient seer is -- don't dismiss the French.

As I have proclaimed from the minarets down the centuries, there is no such thing as a dead cert in sport and no one should be more aware of this than the enigmatic French.

They have a history of unexpected ups and downs on the rugby field -- even at Olympic level too. In 1924, at the Stade Colombes, 40,000 French spectators turned up to watch their team annihilate the uppity Americans in the final, the last time rugby was played at the Olympics.

And what happened? The no-rated Americans won 17-3 and the US team had to be escorted from the pitch by a concourse of police.

So, the advice is, mind where you bet.

Irish Independent

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