By Alan Dymock
THE PARTY had to end some time. The fat lady is resting her shrill voice and the heroes of Cardiff’s street sweeping corps have earned their corn, but there is no more international rugby. Until the summer, that is.
Let us live in the moment, though. Let us celebrate the madness and the maddening moments; the shrug-evoking cameos and the heady disharmony of delighted yelps and woeful whines.
Here is Rugby World’s Alternative 6 Nations Awards!
Italian institution Baron Andrea Lo Cicero has gracefully sashayed off the international stage for the last time. In 103 caps he has scored a creditable eight tries and was tromping around the paddock during Italy’s first ever away win in the Six Nations (against Scotland, unsurprisingly). He played at the coal face for the Barbarians and has represented Rovigo and L’Aquila on home turf, as well as Toulouse and is still thumping into Top 14 opponents with Racing Metro.
He remains an inspiration to hirsute props around the globe, as well as continuing to be a style icon, with his flowing locks, whiskered face and fetching calf tattoo. Every prop should have the essence of The Baron. He will be sorely missed.
During Lo Cicero’s last cap the band at the Stadio Olimpico had a polished-brass shocker, squeakily hashing the anthems and running out of sync with an inflamed crowd. For the Azzurri anthem they could have just gone a-capella, much like the Scots did halfway through Flower or Scotland. Or failing that, just push the aforementioned Lo Cicero out in front, with a cape, and let him effervesce up and down the touchline like a conductor, whipping the crowd into a heady frenzy. You know, the way international rugby should be.
Flash of brilliance Bouquet
Just fling the posies at Simon Zebo’s sublime feet right now.
Week one, all those weeks ago, saw a moment of instinctive brilliance as the Irish winger took a low pass on his outstretched heel, cycling forward as if he was mid-spinning class, and cupped the ball in his hands. In a nano-second, the Zebo flick was born. It was the kind of on-the-hoof magic that leads to many a shattered window as kids in playgrounds all around over home nations attempt to re-create the moment.
Pewter Quaich for Best Cameo
I suppose David North doesn’t really need much invitation to come on down…
Picture the scene. A packed out Parisian stadium; a tense contest between France and Wales; a pin-point chip kick is lofted over the static French defence, Samoan-thighed winger George North collects the pill and elegantly dabs down, despite the best efforts of a racing Francois Trinh-Duc. Then, out of nowhere, North’s father, in a moment of well, madness, hops a barrier, shimmies past security and hot-foots it over to pat his hulking son on the back, before being hauled off without his feet touching the ground. It’s a situation all teenagers recognise – remember North’s only 20 – as an ‘oh dad!’ moment.
Well, we all get caught up…
Carefully conditioned and combed to salon-quality perfection, a gorgeous mop of primrose locks sits atop the squat frame of a certain Richard Hibbard. That same ogrish hooker who thumped over from a few yards against Scotland without any discernable esprit and who has been burrowing into burly scrums with glee. Like his roof, he is a man with layers. Honourable mentions to Dimitri Szarzewski, and of course, ahem, The Baron.
Big Hand for Picking Players Out of Position
Like floral shirts and sherry bars, picking players out of position is all the rage right now. I don’t get it (on all counts), but it’s big.
Mike Brown on the wing; Sam Warburton at 6; Kelly Brown at 7; Wesley Fofana on the touchline; Yoann Huget at full-back; Freddie Michalak in a position different from the one he plays at club level; in fact any Frenchman who can be moved has been. Why? Because, we are French!
Some make the most of it, some thrive and some make a pigs ear of it, remember poor Mauro Bergamasco being picked as a scrum-half against England in 2009, he’s only just recovering. Could this be one of the reasons the tournament lost coherence for a few weeks?
Best try saver
There are always plenty of candidates for best try of the tournament. But what about moments where certain disaster was averted?
There are a few candidates. There was a sensational saving tackle from Mike Brown after North bulldozed past Chris Ashton and snarled his way up the park. There was a hit from Craig Gilroy in the first game which stopped Leigh Halfpenny from making used of a 3-on-1. Morgan Parra became the stick in the spokes as a rampaging Manu Tuilagi shrugged off several would-be French tacklers.
However, the winner has to be Stuart Hogg, who risked potential liquidation as he hit the fridge on rollerskates that is the near 20st Vincent Debaty. Be grateful, Irish fans: that tackle meant that France finished bottom of the Championship rather than you.