Michael Lynagh hails ‘significant’ Six Nations win as sons shine in Italy and Australia to cap ‘special day for the family’

Alex Spink
Louis Lynagh on Italy debut and Tom and Michael Lynagh at Reds photoshoot.

Louis Lynagh on Italy debut and Tom and Michael Lynagh at Reds photoshoot.

Michael Lynagh is hoping a dream weekend for his family signals an upturn in fortune both for Australian and Italian rugby.

Five days before the curtain falls on the Six Nations, Lynagh had a Super Saturday of his own watching sons Tom and Louis score famous wins on different continents.

The Wallaby legend tuned in from Rome to see fly-half Tom help Queensland Reds beat the high-flying Chiefs 25-19 at Suncorp Stadium and continue their fine start to the Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Louis crossed on debut

He then hot-footed it to Stadio Olimpico to catch Louis mark his Italy debut with a try as the Azzurri shocked Scotland 31-29.

“A friend wrote to me last night to say ‘in your wildest dreams when you went to play in Treviso in 1991 could you have imagined you’d be sitting in Rome watching your son play for Italy?” said Lynagh.

“He told me I could have written my own ticket for the odds I’d have got for that’.

“It certainly was an amazing occasion and, with what Tom did in Brisbane, made for a special day for the family.”

Australian rugby is on the rebound from a disastrous World Cup overseen by Eddie Jones, while Italy has finished bottom of the Six Nations for the past eight years.

The future looks more rosy for both after a weekend in which the Reds moved three points off top spot while Italy leapfrogged Wales ahead of Saturday’s Wooden Spoon decider.

Lynagh snr has followed the travails of Italian rugby since arriving in the north of the country, fresh from helping Australia win the 1991 World Cup, not knowing a soul and unable to speak the language.

He has seen the Azzurri denied entry to the Five Nations when they had a decent side, then look out of their depth when they were belatedly let in.

Things are at last changing under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada. Italy came close against England and blew the win but still bagged a draw against France.

Now, aided by Benetton-bound Lynagh jnr’s try, they have finally got over the line.

“Only winning gives you that belief,” said Michael. “Until you do it’s almost ‘we’re in position again but it’s going to happen again, we’re going to lose’. Whereas good teams think the other way round. Even if they go behind they think they can still win and often do.

“So it was wonderful to see 70,000 people going crazy in an Italian way on Saturday and the team performing so well.

“It’s been tough for them, real tough. But I never doubted they should be in the championship. The support is there in Italy whereas in other countries it wanes a bit sometimes.

“Look at the Scotland game,” he added. “Afterwards it was on the front page of the mainstream papers, Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport. That’s pretty significant.

“The Prime Minister was there, she was in the dressing room, the Minister of Sport was there, the sponsors too. Even the Rome taxi drivers knew there was a game on. It grabbed the imagination of the whole country.”

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For the older of his two boys to have played such a big role fills Lynagh with pride, three years on from Louis’ two-try late show to win Harlequins the Premiership Final at Twickenham.

“It’s been a pretty tough time for him since then because he’s had two knee operations,” said dad. “Then this last period with Quins has been a bit disappointing, the way they’ve treated him and that sort of thing.

“But, you know, one door closes and another one opens. Quins didn’t offer him anything and he’d been there for 10 years. It’s difficult for a young person, when suddenly somebody doesn’t want you.

“At 23 it made for an interesting change of direction. Louis speaks Italian and he’s going back to where he was born. But you’re out of your comfort zone a little bit.

“It’s been a tough decision but now he’s made it he’s getting on with making sure it’s the right one.”

Louis might have played for England, had Jones capped him rather than merely include him in a squad. Australia too was an option, given his family lineage.

Instead he opted for the land of his birth, at a time when the Wallabies are in rebuild mould after the embarrassment of making history by failing to get out of their World Cup group in France.

“I hope what we’re seeing now in Australian rugby are signs of an upturn because the autumn wasn’t great for the Wallabies, was it,” said Lynagh snr.

“It’s coming from a pretty low ebb, what with the World Cup and all the rubbish that was going on there.

Shackles broken a little

“But it feels the shackles have been broken a little bit on the field. There’s still a lot going on off it but the players are saying, ‘Okay let’s get on with it’.

“There’s a little bit of optimism around the teams that are playing at the moment, there are some good young players and with Joe Schmidt there along with new performance directors and advisors, let’s hope we’re starting to turn the corner a little bit.”

With the British and Irish Lions little more than a year away Lynagh knows there is no time to waste.

“We’ve got to be competitive and put on a really good performance against the Lions,” he added. “And I think we can.

“The players are there, it’s a matter of making sure all the off field stuff supports them and gets them into the right frame of mind and position to actually perform.”

READ MORE: World rankings: Italy’s famous win elevates them above Wallabies for the first time