The baby polar bear grabs the big polar bear by the paw and says, Dad, am I really a polar bear?
Of course you’re a polar bear, son.
Are you sure I’m not a panda?
Of course you’re not a panda.
Maybe I’m a sun bear.
No, son. You’re not a sun bear either.
I could be a spectacled bear.
You’re a polar bear, my boy. A polar bear. Why are you asking this?
Because, Dad, I’m fucking frozen.
Just remind me again where we come from.
That’s right, we come from Ireland, where it rains all the time, isn’t that right? All the goddam time it rains, which accounts for our miserable outlook and our love of the pub. It rains morning, noon and night and it affects everything we do, including our sports. More particularly, let me point out the obvious: every member of the Irish team routinely plays rugby in the rain because this is a rainy country.
Here’s another surprise: it also rains quite a lot in England, so why exactly are people blaming the wet conditions for the abysmal Irish ball handling today? The English players didn’t fumble or spill the ball, conceding possessions or gifting scrums to the opposition. No indeed. They held onto the ball like a team that’s used to playing in, of all things, the rain.
But that’s not all they did. They also managed to put more points on the scoreboard, something that has frequently been associated with winning games. Not only that, but they managed to score six points while they were a man down. Normally, having an extra player should be worth something to a team, if only a penalty, and at six points each, it is conceivable that Ireland could have made it 9-6 and held on to the lead, but instead, they threw the game away during ten minutes of confusion.
Certainly, it didn’t help that Simon Zebo was forced off after ten minutes with a hamstring injury [update : broken bone in his foot], followed twenty minutes later by Jonathan Sexton with something similar. That left Declan Kidney with unpalatable options: Keith Earls on the wing to replace Zebo and Ronan O Gara — a player with very little recent game time — coming on for Sexton. Where did that leave O Driscoll and d’Arcy if one of them was injured? Nowhere, as we found out when BOD hurt his ankle and had to soldier on because there was nobody left on the bench to replace him.
Heaslip’s leadership has to be in question after this game. This was not a well-organised team, which it needed to be in a down-and-dirty slog, and Heaslip’s own discipline left a lot to be desired, giving away vital penalties in what was always going to be a low-scoring game, repeatedly fumbling the ball and showing little enough leadership. A few points either way were always going to decide this match, and Ireland were the ones who gave gave them away.
It wasn’t a rout by any means but England came to Lansdowne Road better prepared than the locals. They’d done their homework, and managed to neutralise the much-hyped choke tackle without much difficulty. Oddly, they didn’t dominate in the scrum or the lineout, but they did enough to shade it, and in these conditions that was all they needed.
It was a tough, physical game that could go either way but the English came ready to dog it out, and that’s what happened.
If it comes down to one thing, I’d say it has to be the element of surprise. The English were less surprised than we were to discover that it rains in Ireland.