The opening two weekends of rugby’s Six Nations championship were listlessly lacking in panache or brio. England and France have been generally dire, pantechnicons juddering along on empty, while Italy and Scotland resemble my old prep-school reports: ‘tries hard with poor results’. With intermittent verve and a smattering of dandy Celtic dances, so far only Wales and Ireland have flickeringly illuminated the tournament. Genuinely permanent shifts of power might be logged, however, when Wales play in Paris today, and tomorrow when England square up in Dublin’s dear, dilapidated old patch at Lansdowne Road.
Too often down the last century have Ireland come a terrible cropper when they’ve sensed England for the taking. But they’ve rarely had a better chance than this time, and it will be refreshing to be part again of that congenial, processional lunchtime pub-crawl which wends from St Stephens to the splintery shrine above the railway line — not simply a vulgar, drunken route, more a ritualistic parade extolling the tizz and fizz at feeling the whole place devotedly, expectantly en f