Ready to make the French connection…

On Thursday last, the Ireland rugby squad jetted off to France on a specially chartered Aer Lingus flight ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The specially branded Airbus A320, Green Spirit, departed Dublin at 12 noon and was flown by Captain Caolan Flanagan, who attended the same school as Ireland rugby captain, Johnny Sexton. Pic: INPHO

As I have tweeted in the past – and I’m not alone in touching on this matter of grave importance – for many soccer fans, two of the least appealing words in the English language are ‘international break’.

For Premier League enthusiasts like this columnist, these breaks are dreaded…usually they mean boring international games (often just friendlies) tiresomely commanding the stage at the painful expense of live club action from England.

At least the break underway now is to facilitate proper competitive action. The Republic of Ireland face the daunting prospect of taking on France (away) in a European Championship qualifier (this evening, Thursday 7th of September). Tuesday’s news that bang in-form Brighton star Evan Ferguson is out through injury is a cruel blow. We will watch it, with a mixture of trepidation and more trepidation. Best of luck to our lads.

Still, as one of the very excited presenters said on Off The Ball (Newstalk) on Sunday, we are entering a very exciting sporting period. The main item on the menu for the coming weeks is the Rugby World Cup. It kicks off tomorrow (Friday, September 8th) with a truly mouth-watering opener, hosts and tournament favourites France meeting second favourites and perennial ‘team to beat’ New Zealand at Stade de France. It could be sensational!

Ireland begin their campaign on Saturday when they face Romania. Notwithstanding that we are in a tough group, this is an incredibly exciting time for Irish rugby. Ireland are ranked number one in the world. If we can minimise injuries to key players, we can be a major force at this tournament. On our day, we can beat anyone and everyone. Of course trying to more or less peak game after game against such elite opposition (over a short period too) won’t be easy, but our lads will take some beating. Here’s wishing the boys in green every success.