The Ever Changing Word Of Neil Francis


Former Irish rugby international Neil Francis jumped head first into hot water this week. Speaking on Newstalk’s Off The Ball, Francis found himself discussing gay people in sport and generalised that, ‘gay people have little interest in sport’, and followed on by saying that’s ‘not a generalisation’. ‘What are their interests?’, he continued, ‘I mean, if you’ve ever sat down with, you know, homosexual people and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport. That’s my experience from sitting down with them; I’ve done it on a regular basis’.

So Neil Francis regularly sits down and discusses issues with gay men. ‘I don’t have an interest in ballet’, he argued when pursued on the matter. Ah well, that’s ok then, why should gay people be allowed to play sport when Neil doesn’t be bothering them at the ballet? When it looked like it couldn’t get any worse, Francis then generalised even further. ‘You do a survey of the hair-dressing industry and find out how many heterosexuals work in that’. Ever heard of women Neil? There’s a few barbers around the country that are pulling their hair out listening to you also. And so it continued, ‘I’m here. I’m going to express an opinion’, he said. That’s fair enough but using phrases like the ‘rugby dressing room is a pretty homophobic environment’, is a bit of backward thinking. Rugby may be a game of passing backwards to go forward but it’s all backwards with Neil on this one. It is just this kind of thinking that prevents young people from expressing themselves and being who they really are. If you’re gay, you’re gay, if you’re heterosexual, you’re heterosexual, who cares anymore? Just get on with it.

Matt Cooper, presenter of the Last Word on Today FM allowed Francis the opportunity to revisit his ill chosen words. Matt also invited onto the show, well known rugby referee Nigel Owens who came out as gay in 2005 to his family and friends and to the greater rugby world in 2007. Owens had previously stated that he was ‘disappointed’, to hear what Francis had said on the topic. Francis acknowledged that, ‘some of the points that I was trying to make were clumsily made’. One wonders what point exactly he
was trying to make? Nigel Owens was willing to give the Irishman the benefit of the doubt, ‘it’s good that he has been able to go back and reflect on what he said. We all make mistakes in our lives’. The final penalty in the Ireland versus the All Blacks in November comes to mind, Nigel.

Francis went on to say, ‘A lot of people who listened to it said that’s not your form. I realise that I was in a field of land mines and I stood on one or two’. The only reason anyone could feel that they were in a field of land mines while discussing this subject is if they felt the need to hide their personal opinions on the matter. And so the Last Word was left with Francis, ‘people know who I am and that I say what I mean. I don’t think that there is any point in saying this unless I meant it’. The problem here is Neil, that if you indeed always say what you mean, which time did you mean what you said?

Backtracking was again on the agenda as former England international, Lawrence Dallaglio tried to explain what he really meant when he suggested last week that England’s chances against Ireland would be greatly enhanced if they could get Johnny Sexton ‘off the field’. ‘Having had feedback from countless Irish rugby supporters, I realise how clumsily I made this point’. ‘Clumsily?’, here we go again it’s catching. Dallaglio went on to say, ‘I was not advocating England deliberately try to get Sexton off the pitch and not in a million years would I want to see any player in an England jersey deliberately try to injure an opponent’. So hold on here Lawrence, you would like to see Sexton off the pitch but not deliberately? Is that where we are going with this? ‘England must ensure Ireland’s fly-half is too busy trying to survive to dictate play- but keep it legal’. Ah, now we’re right back where we started, aren’t we?

I’m sure every fly-half is a target for every rugby team, that makes sense, Dallaglio does not. The Irish forwards will no doubt pass up every opportunity to hit Owen Farrell, we know this because they haven’t said that they’re going to target him. They will also know that Danny Care hasn’t, wink, wink, got a short fuse and he also will be allowed to do as he likes. Next Saturday all will obviously be known but Sexton has no more to fear than his opposite number. Maybe our own Neil Francis should explain to Dallaglio what a manly sport is?

Finally, in a week where loose talk is all the rage, a ‘Welsh journalist’, as he will be referred to, as naming him would give the impression that he has a personality or some kind of talent in this field, has yet again attacked Brian O’Driscoll. In his piece for the Sunday Times, this ‘Welsh journalist’, had the audacity to compare Brian O’Driscoll with his opposite number next Saturday Luther Burrell. He even goes as far as to have a little diagram, just like the ones you would see when two boxers meet, a tale of the tape if you will. You know the stuff, height, weight, age, caps. Caps? Now this is where the comparison should have ended. Brian O’Driscoll’s one hundred and thirty versus Burrell’s two, yes two. It’s like comparing a top notch fine wine to a grape. Yes, the grape has the potential to become a fine wine but it also has the potential to become a cheap bottle of plonk or a leftover in a hospital visit basket.

He further insults O’Driscoll when he suggests that the outside centres position is indeed auxiliary flanker and has the cheek to include a box for the amount of times either player was dropped by the Lions. Thirty-five year old O’Driscoll may not have the pace he once had going forward but he’s no slouch either and defensively he’s the best player in the Six Nations. Obviously a chip of some weight has settled on the ‘Welsh journalist’s’, shoulder, when he says that O’Driscoll’s best years date back as far as 2001. And so it will be with some pleasure to return to the sanity of match previews later in the week, Neil Francis will be sitting down with some gay men and ‘not’ discussing sport, he probably won’t be getting his hair cut either. Lawrence Dallaglio will be wondering what to say and what not to say and when not to say it and our old friend the ‘Welsh journalist’, will be praying hard that Luther Burrell doesn’t get owned next Saturday.

Image courtesy of Eurosport

  1. February 21st, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: