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20th Feb 2019

A funny story from Ireland’s most disastrous Six Nations trip to Rome

Patrick McCarry

“The scooters. I can picture you on a scooter, Donncha O’Callaghan wrapped around you like Roman Holiday.”

Andrew Trimble and Donncha O’Callaghan often dreaded heading into team meetings if Ireland had been beaten on the previous weekend.

“Declan Kidney was the coach,” Trimble recalled, “and myself and Donncha had this thing where if we got beat, it was either my fault or his fault and one of us got dropped. We’d be going into the next team selection meeting and we’d be saying, ‘It’s either you or me. Fingers crossed!’.”

On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew’s House of Rugby (from 20:00 below) Trimble told co-host Jenny Murphy about a memorable trip he and the Munster legend took to Rome in 2013. Given Ireland’s result that day, the two lads were the only ones from the squad to enjoy the weekend.

During the 2013 Six Nations, Ireland’s title push imploded after an impressive start in Cardiff. England and Scotland defeated them and France scored a late Louis Picamoles try to snatch a draw in Dublin.

For the trip to Italy, in the final round, Kidney famously axed Ronan O’Gara and would later rue the call when Johnny Sexton was withdrawn from the matchday 23 with a foot injury. Trimble takes up the tale:

“On that occasion [before the Italy game] both of us got the blame so we were both chopped and were both 24th and 25th men going to Italy. And we were like, ‘Listen, not ideal but stuff it. Let’s have a bit of a city break, the two of us’.

“We’re like, ‘Listen, we’re going to Rome for a few days and we haven’t got that much responsibility now. We’ve got to go on the sessions, meetings and stuff but we may as well have a good time’.

“So we did the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, went out for coffees, went out for pizzas, ice cream. So, after the captain’s practice on the Friday, we went and did an open-top bus tour. And we were driving around Rome and then we went past a few of the lads who were sitting and having coffees, or whatever. And we were like, ‘Good luck at the weekend fellas! All the best!’

One can just picture the scene, with Trimble and O’Callaghan saluting their coffee-drinking teammates as the tour bus trundled by. Donncha with his big map unfolded and his camera clicking away.

“We had the time of our lives,” Trimble recalled. “Not a care in the world.”

Ireland could have done with both men on match day at Stadio Olimpico as they lost Luke Marshall, Keith Earls and sub Luke Fitzgerald to injury before 30 minutes had passed. Brian O’Driscoll was one of three Irish players yellow carded and Peter O’Mahony ended up on the wing.

“Needless to say,” Trimble continued, “Italy played really good that day and Ireland were crap. The Azzurri won 22-15 and ended up finishing 4th (one ahead of Ireland) in the final table.

“Myself and Donncha were like, ‘For once, this is not our fault’.”

Trimble did get to play Italy in 2014 and 2016, scoring tries in both victories, as Ireland went on a winning run against their Guinness Six Nations opponents that is currently at eight.