Resident BTL Weshtie Droptheclaw returns for an historic first-ever ATL Blog Steal with this channelling of everyone’s favourite rugby literary wunderkind:
In 1860, Herman Melville, still despairing at the critical failure of Moby Dick on its release, flirting with the onset of alcohol-induced insanity, published a collection of poems, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. The Anthony Allen of its day, its attributes went ignored.
But Melville was prescient for he penned these words:
At the height of their madness
The night winds pause,
But no lull in these wars.
Thus Melville, that clinking, clanking collection of collagenous booze and madness summed up round four of this year’s Six Nations.
The wearying bones and bruised muscles of six proud rugbyfaring nations go at it yet again, the end in sight, tantalisingly, yet still as achingly out of reach as Moby Dick was to Ahab, if you will.
For three of these nations, the word penultimate is one which more than aptly sums up their campaign thus far. For two, penultimate offers hope of progress which had not seemed within reach after week one. For the remaining team, penultimate is the word feared most when swords are soon to be laid to rest at the end of the tournament; the harbinger of wound-licking, internal inquiries, and, most humiliating of all, BTL derision.
The Great White Whale that is Stuart Lancaster’s England go into the weekend in rude health, injury to Owen Farrell notwithstanding. A brutal and ultimately clinical dispatching of the French at HQ proved they have the fifteen – and ultimately the twenty three – to deal with all septentrionali hemisphaerio has to offer. Gli Azzurri, they who could translate septentrionali hemisphaerio in their sleep, may find, however, that they will be forever playing Ahab, killed by their own limited gameplan, and dragged to oblivion by an England confident in all facets of their game.
Les Bleus, fresh from a battering and wearying defeat in London, turn their focus now to Dublin, and a trip to face a foe in an only marginally less perilous position with two consecutive faux pas. Ronan O’Gara’s swansong in Edinburgh – if it indeed it was, for Irish outhalf injuries threaten to render his effort Melba-esque – was an unfortunate comedy of errors, the sinking of the Pequod writ large on the green turf of Murrayfield.
La cinquième République française, despite three straight losses, will be eyeing this match, hoping Phillipe Saint-André will manage to steer them through what have been calm waters in Dublin these past 10 years – only two losses testimony that La vie est belle in the Emerald Isle. Or will the French entraîneur’s selection-table insanity return to sink them?
Wales – or Whales as Melville was heard to giggle into his umpteenth glass one day while idly Atlas-poring – and Scotland, both having turned their previously listing vessels around, will be looking to sail into serene waters by notching a third straight win. But will it be Grand Slam pedigree or defensive doughtiness with a back-three dash that wins through on the day? The Murrayfield clash is a mouth-watering prospect, and who would have predicted that at the start of the tournament?
Melville eventually finished indulging in the devil’s drink and sanity duly returned. On weekend four, with three cracking matches in store, this course of action is not recommended. No lull for us; madness, mirth and malt liquor: Usque ad Mortem Bibendum.
These are my top tipple tips for the weekend:
Saturday 9th March 2013
Scotland v Wales 14:30 Murrayfield
Another two-week break means the liver has had to time to recuperate. This is a good thing, so why not raise a glass or two of Lagavulin to wake it up? Once you’ve stirred the heart and put fire in the belly, move on to several Deuchars, rounding out the second half with a strong Welsh finish: three pints of Otley 08 and four fingers of Brecon Gin. Jiffy swears by it. In fact, Jiffy just swears. Wales to stagger home by 5 points.
Ireland v France 17:00 Dublin
A lovely mixture of grain and grape, this one. They say not to mix them, but once you’ve seen John Inverdale drink seven pints of Black Velvet in 15 minutes, you’ll realise it can be a truly pleasurable experience. Particularly as, this week, it will stop him blathering on about England as he colours the streets of Dublin a funky shade of black.
A couple of bottles of Bordeaux to warm up, five pints of Galway Hooker – a rugby pint if ever there were one – and several pints of the atypically Irish Black and Tan should help the Irish deal with the pain of a third straight loss.
Sunday, March 10th
England v Italy 15:00 Twickenham
There’s only one way to get through what is going to be a painful day for Gli Azzurri. Even with Capitano Fantastico Sergio Parisse returning to the bridge early after his battibecco with Laurent Cardona, i figli di Garibaldi may find that the only way to dull the pain is to imbibe grape, grain and anything else that will allow the pain of removing one’s head from one’s fundament in the scrum to disappear. A prescription of Conti de Roero, Palladino and Nuova Cappoletta for the first half, followed by copious amounts of Jacopo Boli Grappa in the second half should see a pleasing haze come down as England rain in the tries.
England, the Moby Dick to Italy’s Ahab; Guscott, the Dick to Butler’s Ishmael, it was ever thus.
Join me next week for the final, liver-busting round five as we stagger happily to the climactic dénouement of the Six Nations.
Received from Droptheclaw carved on a Great White Whale jaw-bone