There is a storm brewing on the other side of the Irish Sea. We haven’t clocked it here but it is coming our way and we will know all about it when Gregor Townsend’s Scotland team make the trip to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium come 10 March.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Whoever wrote that had obviously never come across the entire Irish nation when labouring under the hefty burden of a gargantuan grudge.
Ireland imagined they had done enough to host RWC’23 but independent sports consultants placed them at the bottom of the pecking order behind South Africa and France while conceding that any of the three could host a highly successful sports event.
World Rugby then spent the next week wiping egg off their face when France won the rights over the consultants’ favoured bidder South Africa. Bill Beaumont attempted to argue that black was white when claiming that World Rugby, which he chairs, had not been humiliated.
The feeling in South Africa was one of mixed emotions: there was some anger but it was tempered by some relief, with a section of society believing that the country has more pressing matters to attend to than the hosting of rugby’s quadrennial knees-up.
The response in Ireland has been a collective spitting of the national dummy, a scarcely disguised temper tantrum of epic proportions, with journalists whipping up the public’s fury and directing the anger at…Scotland, and to a lesser extent, Wales. An entire nation is stamping their foot and not in a Michael Flatley type of way, more like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka in a hissy fit.
You might imagine that having finished third in the rankings, the Irish might be picking over the shortcomings of their own bid but they prefer to point the finger at McDreyfuss and see who can shout “J’accuse” loudest.
Here is one emotive headline from the Irish Independent – “Celtic cousins betray us in our hour of need.”
The article goes on to state “the French bought a World Cup from the greedy Celts” and even suggests pulling out of the Pro14 and joining the English Aviva Premiership. The journalist in question does have the good grace to concede that he is full of bitterness “as the betrayed always are”.
It wasn’t just the journalists who pulled on their “tackety bits” and gave Scotland a good kicking, the Irish officials were at it too, speaking ill on the record and even worse off.
“It’s particularly disappointing that Scotland and Wales didn’t support their nearest neighbours,” this from Philip Browne, chief executive of Irish Rugby. “We’re partners in the Pro14, you would have thought that they’d have supported us.”
Although South Africa are also our partners in the Pro14 and Wales did support them in the first round of talks because, the argument goes, the chairman of the WRU, Gareth Davies, is also a bigwig within the ruling World Rugby Council.
“The Scots went for the money,” Browne continued. “Wales went out of solidarity for Gareth Davies.”
“Wales and Scotland blamed for failure of World Cup bid,” ran the headline in the Irish Times, which went on to explain exactly why in some detail.
“If Ireland had secured those six votes, it would have finished the first count on 14 votes, ahead of South Africa on ten, who would have been eliminated. Ireland would then have contested the second count against France and members of the Irish delegation were certain that they would have then received an additional three votes apiece from New Zealand and Australia. This would have seen Ireland achieve the required quota of 20 votes.”
This sort of speculation would be inadmissible in a court of law but the Irish have convinced themselves that someone must pay for their disappointment and that someone is Scotland.
“What goes around, comes around” was the enigmatic warning from Brian O’Driscoll.
Part of the problem is that the Irish were utterly convinced they would win, so the bump when they fell to earth was that much more painful, and spending all that time, energy, effort and money to win just eight votes was, let’s be honest, a little humiliating.
Scotland went with the big pot of money that France had promised, some of which trickles back into Murrayfield’s coffers. It’s pragmatic, especially in light of the reduced income the Six Nations will be getting from this year’s reduced sponsorship deal – and since when did countries vote against their own self-interest?
It is certainly a better reason to vote for a host than Wales’ support for South Africa simply to keep WRU chairman Gareth Davies away from the smelling salts.
Thankfully not everyone in Ireland pointed the finger at Scotland. One Fianna Fail Senator, Terry Leyden, was reported in the Irish Examiner saying this about Ireland’s bid organisers: “They couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery… It is a case of crying over spilt milk at this stage as far as the Rugby World Cup bid is concerned, because really quite frankly, they made a bags of it.”
Scotland are in the same pool as Ireland come RWC’19 in Japan, so we can expect added spice.