A rugby triumph... And no, I don't mean France's first grand slam triumph in the Six Nations competition since 2012. Well-deserved as France's win was, much more remarkable was Italy's last-minute converted try which gave them a 22-21 victory over Wales in Cardiff.
Italy joined the tournament in 2000 and have ever since been the team most likely to lose. In some 110 matches, only 12 times have they not been the loser. Their win in Cardiff ended a seven-year losing streak of 36 games. (In 2015 they defeated Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield.) Back in 2007 and 2013, Italy even claimed fourth place in the competition, but their record since then has been abysmal. Prior to Saturday, Wales had prevailed against Italy 16 times in all competitions. And never before had they lost to Italy at home in Cardiff.
The face of Paolo Garbisi, who had just converted that last-minute try, as he lay stretched out on the Cardiff turf, showed just how important this win was. Among the tears of joy at what had been achieved, there was almost a sense of disbelief. Had they really done it? After all, in recent years there have been plenty of voices suggesting that perhaps the time had come to reconsider Italy's place in the Six Nations. Wouldn't Argentina, say, be more competitive? To beat the holder of the Six Nations title was the definitive answer.
Of all the six nations, Wales is the only one in which rugby is the national game. For years to come, Welsh fans will wonder how this could have happened. How could they lose to Italy of all nations? But for a neutral like me, this result was just what the game needed. Over the years, I've watched Italy lose time after time – yet still never accepting that they were mere also-rans. Games have got closer, Italian skills have grown better, and at last a major result has been achieved. Rugby is all the better for it. That's why I stood and clapped when the final whistle blew.
I wonder too how many Italian rugby clubs there are. Mighty France apparently has over 2,000. Does Italy have 200? This triumph will surely ensure that more and more young Italians will see themselves as try-scoring heroes, the Ange Capuozzos and Edoardo Padovanis of the future.
Whether or not the pandemic is over and we are in the endemic phase, the news programmes have pretty well ditched all those scientists and health editors – old Uncle Hugh Pym and all – who used to come on to explain just what it was Chris Whitty meant. Following the science is now so yesterday. The health professionals now ignored have to be feeling neglected – no more stints on Newsnight
In their place, we get the international correspondents, Lyse Doucet it is your turn, military strategists we have never seen before, academics teaching subjects we did not know universities taught, and retired commanders of NATO and other forces pontificating on the situation in Ukraine. In addition, Our Man or Woman in Moscow telling us what Putin thinks have taken the place of those who used to do the same about Brussels. Where are you now Katya Adler? There are an awful lot of people feeling the loss of the limelight.
Having just had my fourth jab, I feel reasonably reassured about the months ahead, even living in London where it is most definitely over as far as Londoners are concerned, but not as far as Covid is concerned which is still spreading merrily. But no masks and no social distancing is the rule. And as for hand-washing, forget it. The sun is shining – even if the price if everything is soaring.
As for another Cold War, well been through that and this time no risk of becoming a combatant as there was last time. The biggest change I have noticed to my way of life is that, along with those scientists and the medical TV hacks, most of the pandemic friends I made on Facebook these past two years have disappeared. Presumably they are back in the office too busy actually doing something instead of looking at the walls of their bedroom while trying to escape home-schooling their children.
I am not sure that I miss them, although one or two did seem like they might be worth getting to know. It would, however, probably have turned out to be a bit like blind dating: a case of hello and goodbye.
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