Rugby Union


Blame game begins after Six Nations Paris debacle

PARIS: The last minute abandonment of the Six Nations clash between France and Ireland had everyone searching for a scapegoat but whoever is selected for that role will not matter to the biggest losers - the supporters.

Not much could be gleaned from the 'press conference' held after the farcical abandonment where the fans were the last people to know whereas the television viewers had been informed 10 minutes before kick-off.

A frazzled looking Six Nations official Christine Connolly and French Rugby Federation president Pierre Camou appeared before the media but refused to take any questions while referee Dave Pearson having been announced that he would be present was then absent.

While Connolly simply stated the bland facts that Pearson had cleared the pitch as playable 90 minutes before kick-off and then the reverse minutes before it, a visibly angry and emotional Camou took the line the best defence was offence.

"We were not the deciders," said Camou, who then apologised solely to those he felt responsible for the French supporters who had travelled long distances but not a mention of the Irish supporters.

The International Rugby Board backed Pearson. In a statenent the IRB said: "Player welfare and safety is the primary concern for the IRB and its match officials."


To many the scenario had been clear all week that with the temperatures as they were it was asking for trouble to have the match scheduled at such a late time especially on a pitch which has no undersoil heating.

While television was held to blame for this scheduling, according to L'Equipe on Sunday French television did suggest to the organisers they could move it forward to 1500GMT but were rebuffed.

Camou's evasiveness cut little ice with former Ireland fly-half Tony Ward.

"When the captain's run couldn't happen yesterday and the kickers couldn't get onto the pitch to practice, there is a problem. This is a big wake-up call for the Six Nations," he said.

For another former Irish international turned pundit Neil Francis the blame lay fairly and squarely with the French.

"As usual the French, in their minimalist and laissez-faire way, did as little as possible to make certain that the match took place," he said in his Sunday Independent column.

The sorry sight of two groundsmen desperately wielding a heating implement in a corner of the pitch while the military band stood to attention even after television viewers had been informed of the abandonment brought out some dark humour from an Irish fan.

"It brought back memories of The Titanic and the band still playing while the ship went down," he commented.

However, such humour was a rarity to be found amongst the thousands of Irish supporters who had saved up at a time of severe financial hardship to make the trip over to Paris.

Kevin Loughney, owner of the Irish pub Kitty O'Shea's in Paris, described the decision to call the match off as "pretty devastating for the fans who had travelled".

One of the fans Dublin-based salesman Mark Kelly summed up to AFP the frustration of the fans.

"You wouldn't get this in schoolboy rugby!" Kelly told AFP. "Me and my wife have been planning this for a year, St Valentine's weekend and all that.

"These French friends came over last year to Dublin and we said we'd come this year.

"With hotel and flights and organising nannies for the two kids it has cost 1,000 euros.

"The first we knew was 10 minutes after it was meant to kick off. The referee didn't have the courtesy to come and announce it himself. I can't come back as I can't take another day off."