Sunday 17 December 2017

Eddie: Fiasco is France's fault

Ex-Ireland boss O'Sullivan blames FFR for last-minute cancellation

FORMER Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has pointed the finger of blame at the French Rugby Federation (FFR) for the disastrous late postponement of the France-Ireland Six Nations match on Saturday evening.

Free from the constraints that come with the responsibility of being the national coach, O'Sullivan jumped to the defence of English referee Dave Pearson, while pushing the FFR off the cliff edge of respectability.

"You can't blame the referee. If Dave Pearson had put the players on that surface and a player had got badly hurt, he would have to take the blame for that. He did what was right," said O'Sullivan.

Beggars belief

"To consider there were 80,000 people at the stadium and millions of people watching at home and at the final moment the game was postponed, it beggars belief.

"Ultimately, it's down to the French Federation for managing this situation.

"Then, it was left to the referee to make the hard decision. There were no curve balls here.

"We've known for the last few days where we were, yet we reached this stage at the last minute.

"It's hard to believe that the French Federation couldn't predict this outcome given the bad weather here hasn't changed in the last 72 hours."

Six Nations officials have confirmed the match will be re-staged on either March 3 or 4.

But O'Sullivan believes the game should have been scheduled for this weekend, as it would have been kinder to both squads.

"If we push it out between the mid point then we'll end up with Ireland and France playing four matches back to back. That would put a huge strain on the squads," he said.

"It would be much better if they could play it next weekend and then have a break after the third week.

"That would make much more sense in terms of players not getting injured or burnt out."

Pierre Camou, the president of the FFR, preferred to shift the responsibility of the postponement onto the shoulders of Pearson, the individual with the final say, rather than look at the responsibilities of his Federation.

"We always take responsibility for the pitches, but we are not responsible for the decision to call it off.

"It's very sad. I don't understand the referee," he said.

"I am worried that two hours before kick-off everything seemed fine. I'm thinking of all the fans who have come from afar."

But Camou was quickly put in his place by the Six Nations media and communications manager, Christine Connolly: "Unfortunately, on the advice of the referee, it was decided that it was unplayable.

"He came here yesterday (Friday) and inspected it under the covers and then again at 7.30pm (French time), and it was playable. However, sadly, in the 90 minutes after the covers were drawn back, it froze over in several areas and was unplayable," said Connolly.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney also backed the referee. He said: "I stood on the pitch. I saw the way it was. It would have been very difficult if we had a serious injury.

"It's a very difficult situation where one man has to decide on 70,000 people all ready to watch a match, 30 players all ready to go and then whether the pitch is safe or not.

"We had done our research before we came over. The Six Nations rules are that it's at the sole discretion of the ref.

"I understand why he made his call. I would be very disappointed for the supporters.

"I'd be disappointed for the players, but I'd be more disappointed if I was sitting in hospital with somebody who had a very bad injury."

The situation was probably best summed up by Ireland captain Paul O'Connell. The Irish players returned to the pitch to blow off some steam in a ball-playing session 20 minutes after the game had been cancelled. But even that was postponed.

O'Connell said: "Guys were pumped up and they just wanted to do a little bit of fitness.


"The crowd then kind of gathered and they (French officials) asked us to leave because they thought if we left, the crowd might leave.

"A bizarre end to a strange day."

The Six Nations last night issued a statement clarifying the procedure for postponing matches, highlighting that the home union and referee are the only parties able to make such a call.

However, the question of why Pearson was not urged to complete a definitive pitch inspection on Thursday or Friday night, when conditions were forecast to be near-identical, remains unanswered.

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