Home after a weekend in Cardiff dominated by the oval ball. On Friday, it was a 'guest' appearance for the Assembly team against an Italian representative team from Florence. I can report that the Azzurri temperament shone through. The last quarter saw such an impressive display of Italian 'handbags', hair pulling and finger pointing that the ref sent one of them off and blew the whistle five minutes early - thus avoiding a diplomatic incident. It was more fractious than choosing a pope. Mind you, I have to say the first clout was cast by one or two of our over enthusiastic youngsters. We won 14-0, and Heol y Cyw RUFC were fantastic.
Alun Cairns was the only current politician playing - though Vale of Glamorgan farmer/AM, Andrew Davies turned up with intentions, but failed to survive the warm up. Andrew is in that interregnum between losing his muscle tone and losing his speed to the extent that his muscles are not threatened by over exertion. The Italians in the Clubhouse afterwards reminded me of why I used to so love playing the game. Noisy, anarchic, uninhibited lovers of life. I hope I get an invite to Florence for next season's game.
And then to the Millenium Stadium, having enjoyed hospitality at St David's Hall. Very nice too. First 'hospitality' invite I've had since being drop kicked out of the Assembly. I've been trying to persuade myself that we are good enough to win at Croke Park since the great day at 'HQ' three weeks ago. We have moved on, but so have O'Driscoll's men. It still looks one hell of an ask to me. I think we can do France - who looked unbelievable uninventive yesterday.
First half we were not good enough, and deserved to go in behind I thought. Second half we were something else. Last quarter was a stroll. 5 minutes to go and I had Lee Byrne as my man of the match, and he just about held on despite another late display of pyrotechnics from Shane Williams. Couldn't pick out a forward for mention. They were a good solid unit with no obvious weakness. I thought Stephen Jones was terrific as well and Henson was good too. Funny how someone so 'glamorous' off the field is so unglamourously solid and dependable on it.
I watched most of the Irish game without hearing the commentary. I hope Wales take more advantage if the Irish start as slowly as they did against the Scots. I just couldn't get into the game in Paris. Sure, it was tense and uncompromising and the French tried to run everything - but there was no innovation and the English were too good to allow any room for French flair. Must say that Brian Moore's language is becoming more course by the game. It won't be long until the 'f' word slips out.