Rugby Fantasies #2

And so here we are, the tricky second album, the lesser sequel, the less-loved second child. Blog post number two of undetermined number and I’ve got significantly less to say, but here goes anyway!

Less than 24 hours to go until the start of the Six Nations, and I’m still having to make changes to the Big Gay Beards. (The name stays because of Castrogiovanni, last time I checked – which was a google image search approximately 45 seconds ago – he fit the profile splendidly)

I hadn’t reconciled my head with my gut just yet on the fly-half front, but then I checked the news. Riki Flutey is out for England, and to make matters even more complicated Martin Johnson has decided to get back to old habits and put Toby the Tiger in at 12. This would have been good news, and sort of the ideal solution to my head/gut dilemma except for one tiny flaw. The Irish Times doesn’t share Martin Johnson’s opinion that Flood can play inside centre and wont let me pick him as a back. This is definitely more of an ‘arg’ moment than a ‘rawr’ one.

I’m a little worried about myself and my reaction to this whole situation. I was genuinely angry that I have to change my team again today. And teasing me with a Tiger is just plain mean. So I think this is getting a bit intense for me now, I might be starting to care too much about beating Sports Ed at all costs. In fact I’ve now raised the bar from beating Sports Ed to beating everyone (except Fenno obviously, no one is going to beat Fenno). The inherent problem is this – I’ve forgotten somehow that I’m supporting Ireland, and that I want Ireland to win and not just my three Irish players. It really shouldn’t bother me when an English player gets injured, I should have thought “oh good it’s not another of our lads” but instead I thought “are you serious, ANOTHER injury? I have to pick ANOTHER back?” When did the fantasy bit become more important than the actual games?

A major contributing factor I do believe, is the cockiness that has resulted from two whole not-dreadful weeks of Fantasy Premier League. I’ve enjoyed moving up the table (4th btw) and having put in at least one-and-a-half times more effort for this team than that one, I’d be gutted if I end up bottom of the heap. Added to the fact that one of the guys just did the Lucky Dip and got a rather epic team that only needed two injury changes, and I’m thinking maybe all this research isn’t actually going to pay off in fantasy terms. But then that’s not why I should be learning all this stuff, it’s just an added bonus to keep me motivated.

So what do I want from tomorrow and Sunday? Well I want Ireland to beat Italy obviously, but I would rather like it to be O’Driscoll, Bowe and Healsip that score, preferably more than once each too. And I’ll take a consolation try for Castrogiovanni. I’d really like it if Lee Byrne was worth all the fretting this week and hurled himself over the line a few times. Apart from that I’m not sure who I want to win that game. Is it better for Ireland to have Wales beat England since we have to go to Twickenham and Wales have to come to Dublin? That seems like the most logical thing to me anyway. As for Sunday, I don’t know who I’m supposed to want to win that one either. Following the same logic, I’d say Scotland, but I have more French players than Scottish. Maybe just by a point then.

In the intervening hours since writing the above, it’s now less than 12 hours until kick-off, I’ve relocated several hundred kilometres north-west and read several more pages of Rugby Union for Dummies. It was probably a mistake to take that out in Busaras to be fair, I could tell people were laughing. But as Sports Ed said, I’ll bet those people don’t know the difference between tighthead and loosehead props. And neither do I, still.

The bus journey was punctuated by the American on the radio droning on about Super Bowl being way better than Six Nations, and American football in general being better than rugby. Pah! They have to play music during American sports to keep the crowd interested. But then I started thinking about all this talk of rugby becoming boring – a kicking game – and I started to wonder what it would be like if they played music like that during rugby test matches? The guy who announces the teams could assign each player a theme song, and they’d all have to emerge in a cloud of dry ice like Charlie Sheen from the Bullpen in Major League.

Sugababes – Here Comes the Earls sprang to mind. And my addled brain caught wind of the Pussycat Dolls on the radio and threw out ‘Trai Ho’. I’m not sure that will ever catch on to be honest.

One thing I will miss about this weekend is the buzz around the city. There’s something really special about Dublin on international match days, and I think the home Six Nations games might be the best time to be in the city. It used to take seeing away fans on the streets for me to know which teams we were playing, or indeed that the match was a home one. Tonight I was sad to be leaving, I want to see the giant inflatable rugby balls dotted around the city and see the pubs packed out with home and away fans just having the banter before and after the game. Any taxi driver will tell you that the rugby fans are all gentlemen, just out for the day to cheer on their team and have a few pints with the home crowd before heading home happy regardless of the score.

Once I finish that book, I’m going to join them, especially now the lovely Gavan Reilly furnished me with my very own brand spanking new Ireland jersey yesterday. An early birthday present which will now help me blend in a bit should I deign to head to the pub to watch the match. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m there yet. I think at least in this respect, I should take baby steps. So for now I decided to just wear the shirt in the house this weekend, and watch the matches on tv (BBC not RTÉ, I just can’t handle the fighting at half time, and there used to be the added bonus of hearing Jonathan Davies saying ‘Rrrrickee Flluutee’ though that’s moot) Except I realised today that I’d left the jersey in the Observer office, it’s sitting on my desk enshrined in its James Marsden wrapping paper. So I wont have it for this weekend, but I can at least sleep well knowing it’s surrounded by very excellent company.