How many bottles of champagne does the RBS Six Nations trophy hold?
Ireland’s players are unlikely to find out for themselves this year, but the pupils at Foyle and Londonderry College were treated to that snippet of information when the trophy and the Triple Crown arrived at the school this week. (The answer is five, by the way.)
Former internationals Alan Quinlan and John Fogarty were guests of honour at a special school assembly and they indulged in a question and answer session with the pupils.
And putting them right on the spot was fifth year pupil Collum McDonald, who got straight to the heart of the debate over the stuttering start Ireland have made to the current campaign. “Who would you pick to play at scrum half and out half against Wales?” he asked.
Needless to say, it split the two stars straight down the middle.
“Owen Redden for me at scrum half but I think Ronan O’Gara will be the key man at outhalf,” said Quinlan. “Right now it’s all about winning and O’Gara’s the man who gives you that extra edge.”
“Johnny Sexton all the way at number ten,” chipped in Fogarty. “I like the way he uses the ball more and we need to be thinking about the World Cup.”
Back row player Quinlan, from Tipperary, won 27 caps for Ireland between 1999 and 2008 and was twice a Heineken Cup winner with Munster.
Unusually hooker Fogarty played for Munster, Leinster and Connacht and had won one cap for Ireland when serious injury forced his premature retirement from the game last year.
Both men remain optimistic for Ireland’s chances of lifting another Triple Crown this year and host Adrian Logan even elicited a little recognition of the strides Ulster have made of late.
“When you think of what a small population Ireland has compared to England or France, is a great to see Ireland doing so well and Munster Leinster and Ulster doing well in Europe,” said Quinlan.
“Schools play a huge role in the development of the game here and it is vital that they continue to do so.”
“It’s great to see so many girls starting to take an interest in playing the game as well these days,” said Fogarty.
“The future of the game here looks to be in safe hands.”
Introducing the players, Foyle College principal Jack Magill said: “We have a long, proud tradition of rugby at our school and it’s been a privilege to welcome John and Alan today.
“It was a unique experience for students to see at first hand both the Triple Crown and the RBS 6 Nations Trophy and having listened to John and Alan discuss Ireland’s form we’re all looking forward to the next two Ireland matches.”
The players and trophies were at the school as part of an All-Ireland tour to rugby-playing schools organised by the Ulster Bank. Ulster Bank business manager, Sean Hickey, told the pupils that interest in the game was growing all the time.
“The RBS Six Nations is in its ninth year and Ulster Bank are delighted to bring these famous trophies to Derry and to have Alan Quinlan and John Fogarty chatting with the pupils at Foyle, a school renowned for its rugby,” he said.
The bank is launching a new Rugby Force programme which encourages supporters to help local rugby clubs by volunteering to help renovate clubhouses and grounds.
“One club in Ulster will be selected for a very special makeover winning £5,000 of goods and resources to use towards their planned club development, at the Ulster Bank Rugby Force weekend in June,” added Mr Hickey.
Clubs can register for the programme online at www.ulsterbank.com/rugby until March 25.