At least Charlie Ewels could walk away from the crime scene on his own two feet, which was quite something considering he didn’t have a leg to stand on.
That was more than could be said for James Ryan. Suffering a blow to the head, the Dubliner had to be carefully helped every step of the way in such a dazed state that any head injury assessment was a waste of everyone’s time.
Given his recent history of concussion, it may be some time before Leinster Lock is clear to get back into action. Just a few months ago, he was referred to a neurology specialist.
As for Ewels, he will finish the Six Nations in a state of suspension. Apologists for his fate will spout the usual blabla that he didn’t do it deliberately, betraying their ignorance of a rugby law that doesn’t consider intent, or lack thereof, as a mitigating factor and at rightly.
Each player must know by heart every word of the process of contacting the head of World Rugby in relation to Law 9.11: High Danger. Direct contact. Lack of control. Great speed. Right and dynamic = red card.
Mathieu Raynal would have known what that meant before going through the criteria, that Ewels, by making no attempt to lower his tackle, left the French referee with no options. Charlie knew the score, that if he was wrong, his team would pay a heavy price for his dangerous indiscipline.
Many of those in the largely English crowd screaming in anger would have done so on the absurd basis that the game had just started, as if that somehow made it less of an offence. Having paid through their nose to see a contest, they felt aggrieved, so Johnny Sexton fired Ireland’s first salvo with a deafening roar that echoed all around him.
The usual public call for silence regarding the kicker would have been an exercise in futility after explaining the meaning of fair play to Comrade Putin.
Fortunately, the Six Nations had avoided provoking even further outrage from an infinitely wider audience. They did so by refusing to touch the 20-minute red card rule with the proverbial bargepole.
In Australia and New Zealand, an expelled player can be replaced after 20 minutes, regardless of the seriousness of the offence. Why would they do that? Because it “ensures that fans are entitled to competitive and exciting games in all circumstances”.
England’s reaction to the suffering of the first of the first baths revealed this justification as flawed, to put it politely. It is based on an error, that 15 men will always beat 14.
The English 14 dug deep, as football teams of all shades often do when a man is down, and made it a contest, taking almost the full distance from superior opponents. In Perth last summer, the Wallabies lost Marika Koroibete to a red card five minutes into their game against France and still won the Test, 33-30.
You don’t have to be an 18k gold cynic to wonder if those who play fast and loose with the law south of the equator have done so more driven by a desire to keep corporations from happy television than to protect the deterrent value of the ultimate sanction.
Imagine the feeling of injustice being the same incident that happened in Ireland’s three-Test series in New Zealand this summer. An All Black, or an Irishman, sent off can be substituted after 20 minutes, which is a way of trivializing the red card, making it no worse than a double yellow.
The late Tommy Smith, Liverpool FC’s revered ‘Anfield Iron’, used to bully his opponent whenever humanly possible on the grounds that the first minute was too early for a sending-off.
In this respect, Mr. Raynal has done rugby a favor. He reminded all referees that law enforcement is their primary responsibility, not to close their eyes lest they be found guilty by the wayward court of public opinion of spoiling the match.
Otherwise, he will soon judge on the excellence of his performance at Twickenham. The one thing he was missing was out of his control: the man of the match medal.
As well as thriving on accountability, Biggar gives the impression that he genuinely enjoys pre- and post-game interviews, unlike his often brooding predecessor who usually gives the
feels like he has better things to do.
Matt Carley did it during Wales-France, allowing
Biggar to find the corner for a power play that ended with Ryan Elias held over the line.
Not a new brand of coffee, but a smash hit with long-suffering Italian fans. At 10lbs 7lbs or 66.7kg he is also the lightest member of the Six Nations cast, a 22-year-old flyweight whose glorious heavyweight odds challenge earned him two tries in his debut as a as a replacement winger.
Global insurance giant and rugby sponsor QBE claimed to have used “a complex mathematical formula and computer model” to predict Twickenham’s result supposedly based on data from 150,000 matches.
They then solemnly declared that the result would be a home win: England 32, Ireland 17. Instead of losing by 15, Ireland won by 17.
As experts in disaster planning for earthquakes and floods, they can always say they overlooked another force of nature, as applied by Charlie Ewels to James Ryan.
The result would have been different but surely not so different.
There is good news and bad news to be heard this morning about Ireland’s prospects of entering the World Cup year as European champions, a goal which cannot be achieved without serious connivance from the part of the team they just beat.
England are no strangers to winning in Paris. They have done so on four of their last eight visits, including the 2007 World Cup semi-final, facts which in no way lessen the likelihood that the French will let them rain on their parade on Saturday night.
The bad news from an Irish perspective is that the big ante-post favorites haven’t lost a Grand Slam decider to Paris since Wales tripped them up in 1955, long before the French decided to put Charles de Gaulle at the Elysee.
In the roughly half-century since the end of its presidency, France has never waited so long for a post-war Grand Slam as it has since the last one 12 years ago. years. England, left far behind among the other runners under Martin Johnson, nearly tripped them at the final hurdle.
Ben Foden, then married to pop singer Una Healy from Thurles, scored the only try, leaving the French to go home 12-10 thanks to a wobbly fall from Francois Trinh-Duc and three penalties from Morgan Parra.
A repeated scenario this weekend will push France to the brink of a national nervous breakdown. Wales pushed them close in Cardiff on Friday night by daring to make them look ordinary.
Two new contenders for the Six Nations understatement: BBC TV pundit Gordon D’Arcy on sight of Charlie Ewels leaving the pitch: “He will be disappointed, I’m sure.”
Head coach Wayne Pivac on Wales’ inability to sell the Millennium Stadium due to the double whammy of Friday night transport problems and overpriced tickets: “There are a few places left.”
The grand total of vacant seats was 11,292. Slightly more than a few.
Angel Capuozzo (Italy)
Chris Harris (Scotland)
Jonathan Danty (France)
Dan Biggar (Wales)
Ellis Genge (England)
Julien Marchand (France)
Tomas Francis (Wales)
Paul Willemse (France)
Francois Cros (France)
Taulupe Faletau (Wales)