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Dublin: 22 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

TV Wrap - Bono gets it in the neck as Ireland's problems are exposed in Twickenham horror show

While the Irish public rushed to blame the U2 frontman, the pundits worryingly found plenty of different issues on the pitch.

“WE HAVE A problem with England now”, said Matt Williams, fixing a flat cap to his head in hefty, solemn pause as the breeze carried his words sternly from the steps of the GPO to the nations of the Earth. 

Okay, Mattie was actually sitting in a Virgin Media studio in Ballymount, was entirely capless and the oppressor’s latest whim was merely the brutalising of our gallant rugby men. 

cj-stander-loses-his-jersey-in-a-scuffle-with-maro-itoje CJ Stander comes out second-best in a tangle with Maro Itoje. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The build-up to Ireland/England clashes in the Six Nations has become notably less jingoistic in recent years, with the lead-in to yesterday’s game setting a record low for the use of the phrase “auld enemy.” 

This may be related to the 2007 game in Croke Park game, in which Andy Farrell and God Save the Queen were met with respectful silence from the Irish crowd. This was taken as proof that we had “matured” as a nation, and would never again live in a benighted time where, say, the Wolfe Tones might top the charts. 

The build-up to the game instead focused on the fabulously strange instance of England’s captain being the son of the Irish head coach, to which both Farrells responded that it didn’t really bother them at all. 

“Abnormal” was how Shane Horgan described it all in the build-up. 

As this column set about pretentiously casting this Ireland/England clash as some grand postcolonial, Oedipal conflict…Ireland fell 14-0 behind and everyone else got on with the national sport of blaming Bono. 

The Killiney Conscience visited the Irish squad last week, with Jordan Larmour telling Virgin viewers ahead of the game that he had spoken to them about “chasing greatness.” 

Larmour also clarified that Bono is, indeed, “very cool.” 

This gave Irish Twitter reason to compete for the best U2-based gag, at a rate this column couldn’t keep pace with. (We’ll crowbar a joke in yet.) 

The rugby folk instead talked of pressure, which first reared itself ahead of the game. 

“Pressure is the dog that keeps chasing you down the road…we need to get that dog chasing England”, said Mattie, confusing those of us who spent the first week of the tournament looking for the “dog” in the Irish pack. 

As Ireland’s attacked toiled in Twickenham, you’d be forgiven for wishing Mike Catt was as adaptable as the word dog in the mouth of a rugby man. 

By half-time of this dog day afternoon, Ronan O’Gara said that Ireland weren’t dealing with the pressure.

“Heart rate over 180 beats a minute, not processing information fast enough. You’ll get away with that in the PRO14 and against Italy and Scotland, but not here.” 

Shane Horgan said the first half was “dire” and that the second might be worse, while the IRFU tweeted both in error and in vain that the 17-0 half-time scoreline was actually the final result.

Then referee Jaco Peyper was overheard on the ref mic telling the Irish scrum that “we have more than one problem”, and the afternoon felt like an elaborate joke. 

Jaco, long an Irish nemesis, wasn’t our biggest problem on this occasion. Instead he became a kind of Pied Peyper whom the Irish set-piece slavishly followed and at whose feet then routinely collapsed. 

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Before the game was up, Eddie Jones was on the sideline congratulating his players, popping up somewhere he was neither wanted nor expected like, eh, that U2 album that once downloaded itself to our phones. (We didn’t promise the gag would be any good, to be fair.) 

Once the game was over, the inquest began on Virgin Media. O’Gara, taking a pause during which glaciers melted and civilisations fell, eventually ventured that it “was hard to know where to start…it seemed a mismatch from the start.” 

Fingers jabbed in different directions. 

Williams found fault with the scrum and the maul, saying he couldn’t remember our forwards ever being so poor. Horgan pointed to Ireland’s blunt and fitful attack, warning that if there were no improvements we might “be pumped by France.”

O’Gara meanwhile queried the squad’s mindset, showing that we can no longer compartmentalise 2020 as being fully separate from what went on last year. 

“Where is the mindset of this team? We had a hugely damaging 2019, with similar players now trying to potentially reinvent themselves and time is not on their side.” 

That nobody came to a consensus went to show that Ireland’s problems are many and entirely their own. 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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