French coach Marc Lievremont hasn't had much to chuckle about recently, but he did well to keep a straightish face at his press conference yesterday.The French media contingent turned up wearing fake moustaches. Some were more impressive than others, notably those worn by the women in the group. Lievremont started growing one several days ago. Relations between coach and media have been strained by recent events so what was it all about? "It was just a funny thing from them trying to show no one is against them," French assistant coach, former Argentine player Gonzalo Quesada said. "[It was a way of saying] we should laugh about it and at the end we are all French." Lievremont asked if it was a sign of solidarity. "Someone said yes, and Marc was quite happy," Quesada said.
Ireland are looking forward to a "ding-dong" battle with Wales. How do we know this? Because every player wheeled out in front of the media this week has slipped it into his answers. Yesterday it was Jamie Heaslip, Mike Ross and Les Kiss making complete ning-nongs of themselves with their constant ding-dongs. Confirming the low opinion players must have of those who report on them, Heaslip had this explanation when a journalist sadly rose to the bait: "It's just something to make these things more exciting for us. You're the first person to pick up on it." Ah, no. The thing with in-jokes, Jamie, is they're only funny to those on the "in".
A Tongan high
The Pacific Islanders have made the top 10 in the IRB's ranking for the first time. Their rise comes after last week's stirring defeat of France. Unlike many things at the IRB, the rankings seem to work okay: the top eight teams are the eight quarter-finalists. Finland remain at the bottom on 93.
A Samoan low
Samoa's World Cup ended on a low with fines for sponsorship breaches, disciplinary charges for abusing the IRB on Twitter and the small matter of Paul Williams' red card. To top it off, only a handful of the 45-strong squad made their flight from Auckland to Apia the day after their valiant defeat by South Africa. The players who had too big a night and missed the business-class seats the next day had to pay for their own tickets.
While the Tindall Stag-Do argues over whose round it is and whether Mike should be wearing the feather boa into the Calendar Girls or the Borat mankini, the Welsh are more circumspect. More professional, even. Here's the Red Dragons captain Sam Warburton with a thoroughly un-Welsh attitude to the demon drink: "When the World Cup is over they might have a well-earned drink after five months of being dry. There is no drinking in the week before a game. A while ago players would have gone out after every game but you have to look at the bigger picture and realise there is no point working so hard all summer to drink during the pool competition."
And it doesn't stop at booze. The Wales captain celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, but the players only got a sliver of cake. "The management got a cake," said Warburton. "But the players had tiny slivers and the management had the biggest slices."
The "Blarney Army" has created great scenes wherever Ireland play. Lock Donncha O'Callaghan says the team have been boosted by the green army, drawing a methamphetamine-inspired comparison with Ireland's homeground: "When you are in the team bus and all you pass is green, then when you go to the ground it's like the Aviva Stadium on crack."