Wednesday 26 June 2019

Billy Keane: French bring their big beasts but our gamekeepers refuse to go gentle into a good night

Jonathan Sexton runs at France's Guilhem Guirado during the RBS Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Jonathan Sexton runs at France's Guilhem Guirado during the RBS Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I was watching an Attenborough from the sofa, which is a very safe place to be, unless there are bins to be put out.

The locals were delighted when the rains came to the Savannah of East Africa after a very long drought. The showers put the elephants in great form as they are very fond of water. But then the breeding season came and the bulls fought over females. As you might imagine, there wasn't much dancing, bobbing or weaving.

Tusks were broken and the winner had his pick. There was no head injury assessment. The loser hadn't much swagger in his flaccid trunk as he walked away forlorn and dejected to a season of celibacy.

There's always the inherent danger of comparing the animal kingdom to the rough and tough of the rugby world in that we could be accused of turning men into beasts.

But the French hit so hard, it was if the stadium shook. Just like the old days when the rattling Richter trains took a short cut underneath the rickety stands to the coast lands of South Dublin.

We will go back to the East of Africa again and to the very beginning of mankind. We competed with the elephants and won because we were that bit smarter and so it was on Saturday night. Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray out-thought the French who are pretty smart for the most part. But still they insist, even 101 years after The Somme, in sacrificing their bodies for the cause when going around is easier than going through.

Our two half-backs kicked beautifully on a night when the skiddy water on a sound surface made up the perfect conditions for skin the cat.

Maybe Sexton should take a step back and survey the battle from behind the lines but that's not him. He just can't resist a good scrap.

France hit him late, as usual, and, as usual, they got away with it. Maybe the citing commissioner will intervene but he can't give out yellow cards retrospectively .

For one of the late hits Sexton's body was as open as the centre pages of a book and the hit was later than a bride for her wedding.

I had a packet of crisps hand- delivered to his room in the luxury of the Shelbourne by way of bringing him round. Jonathan was in good form late on Saturday night. So hopefully he will be okay for Wales.

We needed a bonus point but when February rain is chill frozen over the Dodder the scoring will be low. Even the downy Dodder swucks were frozen. A swuck by the way is a cross between a swan and a duck. Don't bother Googling swuck and you won't find anything on Attenborough either.

Our pack took the French at their word. It takes courage to face the French full on because they hit to hurt. Donnacha Ryan is so honest and giving. Jamie Heaslip outplayed Louis Picamoles and saved a certain try when he was the first man back to stop a French breakaway.

We did knock on and lose possession several times in the French 22. The weather and the hits were the main causes but on wet nights the safest way is to store the ball away in a marsupial pouch to stop slippages and spillages. Ireland need to concentrate on keeping in touch when the runs are made in the opposition 22. There was far too much solitary confinement. But that's a quibble. Sure we have to be complaining about something.

The fixture listing for our game against Wales brings good news and bad news. Ireland have 13 days to recover and it's just as well. The French may not beat us but the pounding we take from them could cost the next one up such as was the case against Argentina in the World Cup.

The bad news is the game is to be played at 8pm on a Friday night which will be excellent for trade in the pub at home but is most unsociable for those at the match in Cardiff.

Our safari started out with elephants in Africa and ends up with tigers in Cardiff.

I announced my retirement from nightclubbing in Tiger Tiger, at the World Cup, in Cardiff. It was time, I felt, after sorry consultations with myself, to move on up to the Seniors Tour.

Here's a line or two from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas which though written about old age sort of sums up Ireland on Saturday night and the plight of those in search of pints.

Do not go gentle in to that good night.

Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

Maybe we might just try one last nightcap in Tiger Tiger, burning bright. In honour of Dylan Thomas.

Irish Independent

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