This time of year is a busy representative period for rugby in the Northern hemisphere as there are touring teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Fiji, Argentina and Samoa visiting to play games against Ireland, England, France, Wales and Scotland. On Tuesday, November 18, I was at Thomond Park in Limerick to TMO the game between an understrength Munster side against Australia. The game was played in dreadful conditions with cold driving rain throughput and a wind that howled and swirled. Even the TV truck where I was positioned rocked in some of the violent gusts of wind! All-in-all, just the weather that Munster would have hoped for when they take on any touring team, especially one that might be more used to playing in warm, balmy conditions.
No decisions were referred to me by Bryce Lawrence, the referee from New Zealand, so I had to content myself by considering just how cold everyone was getting on the pitch as Australia failed to cope with the conditions and could only get to half-time at 6-6 after playing with the wind. Munster slowly turned the screw in the second half and gave a master class of how to keep a touring team miserable. Munster eventually deservingly won 15-6.
We stayed in the Strand Hotel on the Ennis Road in Limerick. This is a reasonably new hotel constructed on the site of the old Jurys Hotel. The rooms and other facilities are excellent. Apart from a quick breakfast en route back to Dublin, I didn’t try their restaurant, but it looked OK too.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity during the week to watch the second episode of the TG4 (Irish language TV station) documentary about the history of Irish rugby (available on the TG4 player – possibly only available in Ireland). The documentary is called “Gualiann le Gualiann” (literally, “shoulder to shoulder” in English – see this page for an explanation of the Irish word “gualiann”) and explores the development of rugby in Ireland from its earliest days (Trinity College was the first club founded in the 1850s and the foundation of the IRFU in 1873). The narration is in Irish but many of the contributors speak in English and there are English sub-titles, so it’s easy to follow what’s going on.
This week’s episode covered the period from the 1950s to the mid 1970s and included events that I remember well, including the first game I attended at Lansdowne Road (Ireland v. Australia in 1967), the surreal game between Ireland and South Africa in 1970, complete with a massive police presence and a huge contingent of demonstrators against apartheid, and England coming over to play in 1973 after Scotland and Wales had declined to fulfill their championship fixtures in 1972 because of the “troubles”. The fact that a crowd burnt down the British embassy in Dublin just before they were due to travel probably affected their decision…
In any case, the documentary is very good and I was thrilled to see some footage of my grandfather, JC Conroy, in his role as president of the IRFU in 1972-73, filmed in the old committee box in Lansdowne Road beside then-premier Jack Lynch, applauding England as they took the field. Good stuff!
On Saturday, November 20, I was at Murrayfield to be TMO for the Scotland v. South Africa game. As Ian McLauchlan, the president of the SRU remarked at the dinner for the teams that evening, the rain that poured down during the game was just what Scotland had hoped for. They played much better than they had the previous weekend when beaten 3-47 by the All Blacks and never gave South Africa any space. The final 21-17 score was probably about right for a game that was never a classic, even for rugby purists.
I’ll be back to Scotland next weekend for their game against Samoa in Aberdeen. The weather is predicted to be cold rather than wet. Samoa has played well against Ireland and England over the last two weekends and it will be interesting to see how they fare against the Scots.
Now back to technology for a few days…