Martin Smith: One man’s meat, another man’s sporting scandal

Uruk Hai from Lord of The Rings
Uruk Hai from Lord of The Rings
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YOU’VE got to hand it to those rugby lads.

On a day when a trip to Sainsbury’s needed two cups of tea and the central heating on max to recover, they were slogging it out in the sleet and rain in what amounts to glorified underwear.

In their muscle-tight shirts and taped down ears they look like the sporting world’s Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings - fearless, relentless and a bit barmy.

Which is exactly what they have to be.

Watching the Ireland v England game on Saturday was like watching two species locked in an evolutionary struggle for survival.

Some of their shapes defy belief. Six feet five with arms like sprinters’ thighs and a will to win second to no other sportsman or woman.

This is all beef, none of your horsemeat fillers here.

The Victorian-funeral weather only added to the epic vista of the game with TV shots of players, bloodied and bandaged, steaming and heaving under the lights as winter did its worst.

How they don’t kill and maim each other is a testament to their toughness and the honesty about the way they play the game - but mostly their toughness, there’s always a bit of off-the-ball stuff to keep an eye on.

The last time England won in Dublin was 2003, the year they won the world cup in Australia.

They are being bred and tutored to peak in 2015 in time for the next world cup.

You don’t want to put an England football-style curse on them - oops, too late - by saying anything like the new ‘golden generation’ is starting to look pretty good.

But they are, in that smash-them-in-the-face warrior way they have about them.

Good luck lads, I’m right - in the warm with the kettle on - behind you.

How long ago is it since Sheffield Wednesday fans were starting to have serious doubts about Dave Jones?

Not that long.

They are a calmer now and their team and manager have turned it right round in the last few games.

Out of the bottom three easily and looking up to mid-table, their fortunes will no doubt fluctuate again as the games go by.

But they will survive, which is all their most sensible fans asked for, and this is how survival seasons feel.

United seem to be out of their slump too.

It looks like the play-offs for them if all stays on track but is there a single fan who thinks they will be promoted via a trip to Wembley?

You wouldn’t put money on it - but someone in China probably already has.

The UEFA bribery scandal that broke last week saw the head-in-the-sanders and the we’re-all-doomed-Jonah’s take customary positions

Some think our game is so big and well policed enough to be 100 per cent clean - but that’s what the Aussies thought until the latest doping scandal pointed the finger at everything the country is good at.

Others think that if corruption can happen, it will, such is the nature of human beings.

As the most popular competition in the most popular sport the Premier League attracts a hell of a lot of gamblers and creates a colossal market. If it’s big here the billions waged in China and the Far East dwarf our gambling obsession.

It would be a dark day if we were to discover English football was actually corrupt and contaminated, the Findus lasagne of world sport.

Could be worse though, we could be Australian.