Hands up who knows what a flux capacitor is. Well done McFly – no flies on you then so to speak. The flux capacitor was the core component set in the back of Doc Brown's time-travelling DeLorean DMC-12 which had to reach 88 mph and connect with 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power to travel in time. Those of you heading to Top Gear this weekend will have realised that the DeLorean could barely reach 88 mph. Anyway, Marty McFly gets to go back 30 years in time to 1955 and then back again, a quantum leap in every phase of life in that period. If McFly and Doc Brown jumped into the DeLorean again in 1985 and set the clock for 2008 they would again be astonished by the jump in science and technology, medicine and industry. Everything would be different – unless of course if they went to a rugby international. What would they think? Boy, they're still playing the same crap that they played back in 1985.
If you have some spare time on your hands – and unfortunately some of us will have a lot of spare time on our hands as the unemployment levels will soon be as bad as those in 1985 – you might check out Rugbaí Gold on TG4. It is agony, not because the product is Eartha Kitt, but because I now feature in the games. It's an embarrassment. Cross-road faction fighting at line-out time, 20 collapsed scrums in a row and endless kicking... endless.
Has the game gone a bit retro? When William Webb Ellis thought, "I think I'll pick up the ball and run with it", he probably didn't realise that his original thought would be bastardised in 2008 into a game of kick-chase. He is probably afraid to turn or roll in his grave at the moment for fear he'll probably get pinged for sand-bagging or sealing off the coffin.
Retrogression! The November test series of 18 matches of international rugby and not one decent game of footie – not one worthy of the term 'test' and the northern hemisphere's two stronger nations England and France producing play straight out of a script from Fair City.
The France-Argentina game was the worst match I've seen in a decade – 12-6, no tries and if they were still playing today... The worst series of international rugby union matches since, eh, the Rugby World Cup last year.
I'm going to change the name of the game from Rugby Union to Hoist. The IRB have foisted Hoist upon us and they probably don't see that they need to change anything. If the new game requires you to get fitter rather than up-skill then they have it wrong. If you are penalised for attempting to run back, counter attack or retain possession through attacking phases, then what's the point? If the players are saying that they didn't bring their optimal kicking game to the match, well what does that say to you? Effectively the players are struggling to adapt to playing a crap version of the game. Hoist and Biff – that's what it has become now.
I once said on The Last Word on Today FM that I could write a better song than 'Ireland's Call' in 30 minutes in a room on my own. In one hour I could make up some rules which would make the game far more enjoyable for the players and much more entertaining for the live and television audience without a junket to Cape Town or a magnum of Groot Constantia Special Reserve to lubricate my imagination or have to refer to some shite-hawk referee for his opinion. If the living dead are happy with 1980s rugby that's great but with corporates bailing out of client hospitality at rugby matches the real fans won't put up with the rubbish that is currently being passed off as rugby.
I'm sure the players are not particularly happy about it either. Any senior player who is able to articulate a sentiment about where the game is going disagrees with the changes, particularly the Tri-Nation players. Victor Matfield in particular was very vocal about the way the game has changed. If the 'E' stands for Experimental and the experiment hasn't worked – well?
I'm surprised the coaches haven't said much. Right now there are some very good coaches at international level. Robbie Deans, Nick Mallet, Wazza and Declan Kidney. These coaches though are counter-balanced by Pieter de Villiers, Marc Lievremont, Frank Hadden and for the moment Martin Johnson. Johnson could fall into the Steve Staunton trap, revered as a player, ridiculed as a manager. Johnson has put his legendary status in jeopardy by taking up the coaching reins. His undoubted captaincy abilities and respect and motivational skills will not automatically translate and frustration will be his portion as he watches powerless from the sideline. His domain was on the pitch, not off it. Such a dominant personality, his choice of captain has been symptomatic of the problem. Steve Borthwick has as much follow-me-into-the-fray-lads quality as Boy George. Meanwhile all the players look into the stand for guidance and leadership.
As England and France struggle for a gameplan and consistency there is a yawning chasm of opportunity. Wazza, with some serious buttressing from Shaun Edwards, picked up a Grand Slam last season. In all probability the worst side in history to pick up a Grand Slam. They were Europe's standard bearers and against the SANZA sides they, no more than any other side in Europe, were not up to it. But the Taffies are willing to play good rugby and it is the difference which leavens them out of a mire of mediocrity. A side who can play good rugby will win. A Toulouse side coached by Guy Noves would do better than a France side coached by Marc Lievremont. Where does that leave Declan Kidney? He has two big disadvantages...
1. Unlike his team at Munster where he was sure that literally the whole XV would go out and outperform to the point that they would lay down their lives for the red jersey, that simply does not happen when the colour of the jersey changes to green.
2. The international game is vastly different to the Heineken Cup – witness the quality of the games in the Heino next week and their entertainment quotient. It's a lot more than just a bonus point for four tries. Kidney, even though he has international experience as an assistant coach has not had time to think out strategy as a head coach with a very changed game.
It was difficult to divine what sort of a job Kidney did with his team over the week. If they had to do it again would they have done any better against the All Blacks? That was the most disturbing thought. The status quo has not been monitored. In terms of a losing margin 10 to 13 points has been the norm – 19 is not what I would have expected. I at least thought Ireland would get a try – not even a sniff. Secondly in the Argentina game there is no way in the world that the score would have been 17-3 if Contepomi and Hernandez had been playing. So really we are no further along the road from knowing if this team is on an upswing with this coach.
There is no outstanding team in the Six Nations – no coach who will run rings around Kidney tactically. All of Europe's teams are at a low ebb and dare I say it, in a state of flux. If Kidney moves quickly – realises that you can still maul effectively, still score from scrum ball and senses the mix of a varied kicking/running game – then Ireland could surprise everyone in February and March.
But Jaysus somebody has to go back to the future to get the game back into a watchable form.