Game 1: vs New Zealand Something to them. 1 to us.
I’m sitting in the cafe tent, the coldest place in the playing fields. It’s like a fridge. When I came in here yesterday, it still took me an hour to stop sweating after our games, I was so over-heated. Today I’m finding the weather grand, like an Irish spring day.
Looking around, all the shirts of different teams, Cymru. Papua New Guinea. Fiji. The white feather of New Zealand. Waitress with their black headscarves on. I sit scribbling away in the middle, headphones on. I chat briefly to two ex-rivals from the French SMX. ‘Are you writing your blog?’ One of them, the mountain man smiles, carrying his young daughter. Sitting here, I couldn’t be happier.
The two things I wrote down in my goals which our captain Jono asked for, ‘to be supportive to the team and to be true to myself’. The first one yeah, in overdrive. I enjoy trying to do that.
The second, I went on a rant before the New Zealand game. There were things I didn’t like in our build up. I said, I’m going to say this now and preempt myself getting pissed off. We are representing an Irish jersey in a World Cup. International sport is brutal, it’s supposed to be. Vicious. Tries on the wing are not ok. Play with a smile or not… I don’t care but do not yield to another team ever. I don’t care where our capabilities take us but we give nothing. Nothing. Make them take everything. And I’ll respect them because they’ll never take their foot off our throat till the end. I can’t go onto the field worrying what people think about that, when I’m trying my best in an Irish shirt. I have that fire in me. That’s being true to me.
They took everything anyway. Scored a lot, a lot. They were good. Our defence was awful. Our capabilities didn’t take us so far but that doesn’t matter. We fronted up. Stayed together. And I was happy with that.
Personally, I loved it. Testing yourself against pretty much the best in the world. I didn’t feel outmatched individually. I was surprised how easily I could stand them up in the touch, how easy to step them and make yards when they weren’t working hard enough and got lazy, how we could get at their middles and set up attacks.
After the game, I was thinking of Conor O’Shea, the coach of the Italian Rugby Union team – how he talks to Sergio Parisse about in ten years time when they’ll share a beer together and look back at what they built, something which started during so many defeats and hammerings when things looked bleak. Other players will reap the benefits but it will be because of the work they’re doing now. Parisse is Italy’s most capped player and has the a record of losing over 100 international matches. As we were rolled on by New Zealand, and I thought I played really well against them on my 52nd cap, I felt a bit of kinship with Sergio. This is our service to Irish Touch.
I’m pretty happy being the age I am but I was also thinking I wish I was 25. I’d love to go to New Zealand and play touch the way these lads play it. It’s much looser and very fluid. Their passing and ball skills on the run at speed are so good, they never give you a chance to get set in your defence.
Game 2 vs Malaysia – Won 5-2
One of our mottos is ‘No ego, we go!’ I like it.
That’s how I normally try to play. A few weeks ago, we played a tournament in Belgium where there were more skilled playmakers on the team than me. I didn’t score all day and just worked for them and didn’t care. I enjoyed every second of it.
Here, I have to the playmaker, and in a way I have to foster that ego.
‘Give me the ball and I’ll score.’ I strut around. Look the defence in the eye. As if to tell them I can see exactly what they are going to do next. To my teammates, ‘You defend for me and get me up to the line. Give me the ball and I’ll score.’
It feels so weird for me but it’s the best way to serve the team. We scored 5 tries vs Malaysia. I was involved in them all. No ego, we go! Sort of makes sense to me.
The team I’ve been coaching. In the Euros they finished fourth, France 3rd, Wales second. This morning they drew with France in the morning. I was really disappointed when I heard the result. Apparently they should have won and the conditions didn’t help, lashing rain. But a win would have been a big indication of the progress they’ve made. And give them a lot of confidence.
I was nervous and excited for them for their game vs Wales. It was at the same time as ours vs Malaysia. I came back to the tent and somebody told me they’d won. I went outside fist pumping like a mad lad and then somebody else told me, ‘No they’re still playing, it’s very close.’ ‘What field is it on?’ ‘Eh, over there somewhere.’ I was running around still soaked in my playing kit, desperately trying to find the field or someone who knew. I met some of the Mixed Open Team, ‘Yeah, they beat them 8-4. They were so slick. You should have seen them.’
Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhh! And goodnight.