Saturday 24 February 2018

No disgrace in losing to nation with far greater resources

Sean Diffley

With the exception of Donald Duck, it's hard to think of anyone as persistently indignant as Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.

Like our quacking friend, the two managers' rumbustious indignation of duck-like dimensions is boomed against referees, all sorts of unfortunate touchline officials, opponents, opponents' coaching staff and, of course, each other.

Now and then Minnie Mouse, drawing on her fine command of language, says something to put a brake on Donald's turbulence, but Ferguson and Wenger? What about their wives? Anyway, behind most women are men who let them down.

Not that those two were the only ones to rile us a bit this week.

There was Micky Harte from the wild fastness of Tyrone, who wanted TV cameras barred from his hinterland in case they caught players acting up. Croke Park, to their credit, soon put a stop to that nonsense.

But enough about great managers of our times and their idiosyncrasies.

Let's concentrate for a minute or two on the silence emanating from Paris last Saturday after the Grand Slam champions were hammered by a combination in blue. Surprised? Not me.

Let me repeat that Ireland is a minor rugby nation, with a mere fraction of the playing resources of the top handful of countries.

And it is not a disgrace to be beaten; instead, it would be a disgrace to the bigger nations to suffer defeat, considering their superior numbers.

Look at England, for instance, with their six-figure number of players, to Ireland's 27,000.

Nowadays, in this professional era, some of the Top 14 French clubs have total wage-bills approaching €20m (although they are bringing in a salary-cap of €8m for next season), to England's supposed £4m.

And note the number of leading England players, including Jonny Wilkinson, who have joined French clubs.

Also, All Black Dan Carter, considered the world's best out-half, joined Perpignan for half the 2008-09 season for €500,000.

What is clear is that the IRFU are the most successful union in handling the professional game -- the set-up in Ireland is the envy of the other big nations.

In France and England, private individuals own the clubs. Not in Ireland, where the IRFU are the employers and the bosses and pay the players directly -- the amounts are not divulged.

However, we know from the IRFU annual accounts is that €31m covers the entire professional game -- remunerations for not only the players but also the coaches and the back-up staff (including the medical staff).

Very importantly, that €31m also covers the money devoted to the four provinces, including the wages for players and coaches, and administrators, the grounds and all the rest.

Irish Independent

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