USA head coach
Eddie O'Sullivan
Ireland beat America in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday. Were you watching?

Unless you live in the western states my guess is that you probably weren't watching because (a) the game started at 2am (EDT) and (b) it's rugby, which more than likely is not your game. No, if you were watching the Irish play football over the weekend it was probably to watch Notre Dame blow another one against Michigan.

That debacle at Ann Arbor on Saturday has led to wailing, gnashing of teeth and calls for the coach's head. Well, it's not far off that here with the Irish rugby team despite the fact that Ireland won Sunday's game. The final score was 22-10, which is not good enough for Irish fans in a game against the "minnows" from the USA.

The American team is coached by Irishman Eddie O'Sullivan, who was the Irish team's very successful coach until he was basically forced to resign after the Irish team disappointed at the last World Cup. O'Sullivan's presence added to the Irish fans' interest in the American team, but still they expected a more convincing win than a 12 point margin.
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That Ireland is considered a 'power' and America 'minnows' is bizarre, but that's the way it is when it comes to rugby. Rugby is not big in America or in most countries, despite the fact they're now playing a "World Cup."

Really only in Ireland, Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and in the South Pacific is rugby a major sport. The Rugby World Cup, like baseball's World Baseball Classic, has to pad out the tournament with a lot of teams that have no business playing in such a competition and no hope of winning anything. America's one of those teams. So is Canada.

None of that matters to Ireland's rugby fans. They were hoping for great things, at least a spot in the semifinals, although they were also afraid that the team was not really as good they hoped it might be.

The Irish team hadn't won any of their warm-up games, although they didn't play terribly, but Sunday's poor showing has Irish fans convinced that the team is not really good enough. The fact that those watching on television in Ireland had to get out of their beds at 6:30 on a Sunday morning had only helped darken the mood.

There is a lot of pressure on the Irish players to come good at the World Cup. There have been too many disappointments at this tournament in the past. It's probably easier to play for the US team, knowing that 307m Americans slept peacefully through their opening round loss.

{By the way, although as I've said above rugby is very much a minor sport in America, Saturday's Scotsman reported on the rugby players who were killed on September 11, 2001.}