Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Have These People Ever Even Seen a Rugby Match?

Old Henry Devil himself, if you believe some peopleAn Spailpín Fánach is bitterly disappointed to report the latest in this utterly spurious Tana Umaga controversy, as a well-known Dublin publican, one Charlie Chalke, is making a fool of himself by trying to cash in on this "poow Bwian O'Dwiscoll, rotten Tana Umaga" controversy. Chalke, who owns a scatter of pubs around the city, has banned Tana Umaga from every one of them, and put up posters to that effect. Ireland of the Welcomes, indeed.

I wonder has Charlie also banned Colin Meads while he's at it? Meads is considered the greatest New Zealand rugby player of all time, but he's also the man that pulled the Australian scrumhalf Ken Catchpole from a ruck with such violence that Catchpole's groin muscles were torn, and Catchpole never played rugby again. Surely much worse than the six-month layoff expected for "Drico."

Maybe Charlie has also issued the dreaded vitiners' interdict on Francois "Mannetjies" Roux, presuming Roux has not moved on to that Great Veldt of the Sky of course? Who was Francois "Mannetjies" Roux? He was a fighter pilot who stuck a late head on the Lions' stand-off half Richard Sharp during the Lions' South African Tour of 1962. As recalled in the Observer last Sunday, the tackle on Sharp was so late that even the Saffies blush at the memory, and those Saffies can be shameless customers at the best of times.

Dickie Jeeps, who played scrum-half on that 1962 Lions Tour, is quoted in the Observer remarking that something must be done before someone gets seriously hurt - meaning crippled or killed, of course. And Dickie Jeeps is right - the escalating violence, coupled with the escalating (supplement-driven) strength and power of rugby players, means that someone is going to seriously hurt unless the rules of the game are looked at, as, in fairness, the RFB are very good at doing. But when that rule revision is taking place, where will the band-wagon jumpers be then?

I can't believe that people are thinking of shelling out big money to go to Lansdowne Road solely to boo New Zealand, the greatest rugby playing nation in the world, and the greatest rugby playing nation in the world for the past one hundred years. But maybe that's just me being silly. They booed Martin Johnson when he arrived with Leicester last Spring, the only man ever to lead two Lions tours, and Zinezine Zidane was booed at Lansdowne Road in September at a soccer match. We have a lot to be proud of.

FOCAL SCOIR: The lonely Tana Umaga can take some comfort in the fact that he has literary company in his exile from Charlie Chalke's boozeramas - your humble correspondent was damn near ran out of The Bankers on Dame Street only this summer, a joint in Charlie's ownership I believe. It was eveningtime, and An Spailpín and a very dear friend met up after work for a chat and a gossip. We went to the Bankers; the lady had a glass of dry white wine, An Spailpín Fánach drank tea. After delivering our beverages, the waiting staff were hovering around our table for the next hour like we were valued members of the Travelling People, just dying to get us to move along, get along, move along, get along, go, move, shift.

Which is exactly what An Spailpín Fánach would have done, but the lady was made of sterner stuff. In a moment of mutual madness, the same lady briefly dated a very dear friend of your Spailpín Fánach, and that same man assured your chronicler of modern life and mores that, magnificent woman though she is, this same lady has got a bit of a temper. Spurned and seething in the Bankers, she considered the weapons available to her, made her choice and marched to the bar. She demanded the bar manager and, when that same scoundrel was produced, he got a both barrels of a Force Three Bollocking from the same lady. She informed him that she would not returning her custom, swivelled on the heel of a stylish shoe, and strode from the bar, head held high. There ain't nothin' like a dame.