McGeechan dreads call-up for Ally's army
* How Quickly they forget. The Daily Record has told Ian McGeechan that a Scottish defeat against Fiji today would see the revered coach go down as the "Ally McLeod of rugby union". That would be some fate for the man who inspired a nation not previously known as a rugby heartland to win a Grand Slam, reach a World Cup semi-final and collect the final Five Nations' Championship as recently as 1999. Oh yeah, and McGeechan was appointed as coach for three Lions tours. That Ally McLeod must have been some football manager.
* If they do lose today, however, at least Scotland can return to their home comforts, because they sure aren't having any luck with their hotels. First a gang of Hell's Angels forced them out in Brisbane and now a wedding party has made them check out four days early in Cronulla. If it's not been chain-wielding bikers, it's been bouquet-waving bridesmaids. What chance have the poor Scots had?
* There are Irishmen wandering around Melbourne this weekend who must think they have died and gone to heaven (or at least Navan). There is simply no better place for the "Blarney Army" to be stationed for five days of festivities that have a heavy tinge of green. It all began last night at the MCG where Ireland played Australia in International Rules (a hybrid of Gaelic Football and Aussie Rules). Next up came today's Victoria Derby at Flemington, this horse-obsessed city's main racetrack, followed in the evening by the focal point of the weekend, Ireland's Rugby World Cup showdown with Australia at a packed Telstra Dome. Two days of recuperation follow in Melbourne's many Irish pubs, or perhaps taking in the other World Cup games on the big screen in the city centre, and then, on Tuesday, is the Melbourne Cup - "The race that stops a nation". If that doesn't tickle an Irishman's fancy then he had better check his ancestry.
* Not that everything Irish is happy being in Australia's second city this weekend, however. Holy Orders, an Irish outsider for the Melbourne Cup, has become something of a celebrity Down Under by travelling halfway around the world and refusing steadfastly to break into a sweat. Willie Mullins's charge has even been shown on the nightly national television news digging his heels in as the rest of the field work out on the track.
An Australian trainer eventually got into a buggy and chased after Holy Orders with a huge whip. Alas, the seven-year-old just broke into a sedate trot for two laps of the course as Mullins's face became redder and redder with a mixture of rage and embarrassment. But then perhaps even a horse realises what sort of weekend it's going to be. Anything Irish will need all the energy they can lay their hands, or hoofs, on.
Harris on top of the world according to Aussie analysis
* It might come as a surprise to discover that in one of the main Australian newspapers a Welshman is leading their player-of-the-tournament chart. Indeed, Iestyn Harris (left) is well clear, which must be considered some achievement until you see who is in second place. Step forward Japan's Andrew Miller. A slight glitch in the newspaper's calculations, perchance?
*"Unprecedented!" the Australians screamed when England fielded 16 men against Samoa last week. Uh no, not really. It had even happened the day before when Namibia were spotted playing with an extra man for a full minute, twice the time England were. Namibia, however, weren't punished, the authorities no doubt deciding that as it finished 142-0 to Australia the result had not been overtly affected.Reuse content