Loose Pass

Date published: May 20 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the United States' history makers, Tuilagi's tailspin and Monsieur Woodward.

That Friday feeling

England may not have given a bumper Twickenham crowd the home win they were after as the Sevens World Series reached a climax at the weekend but there was still plenty for English rugby to celebrate.

The hosts did enough to secure a fourth place finish in the standings and book Team GB's place at the Olympics in Rio next year and former England coach Ben Ryan's Fiji side wrapped up only their second ever Series title and first since 2005/06.

But arguably the most outstanding achievement was the United States' march to a first ever tournament win under the guidance of another former England coach – Mike Friday.

As impressive and praise-worthy Ryan's ability to get the Fijians firing once again, it is Friday's work with the USA that commands the most respect.

The USA flirted with relegation from the Series last season before finishing in 13th place but Friday's arrival in the off-season prompted a reversal in their fortunes and directly led to their emergence as a major power on the Sevens stage.

This is not the first time Friday has worked such wonders having overseen Kenya's surge from obscurity to feared foe a couple of seasons ago before walking away in frustration at his employers.

Two Cup final appearances – in their home tournament and at Twickenham – carried the USA to a best ever sixth place finish but you sense this is just the beginning for them.

The pace of Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, the energy and management of skipper Madison Hughes and the physicality of the likes of Danny 'Beast Mode' Barrett are all key weapons on which they can build further success but more threatening is the team ethic and close bond they appear to have forged under Friday's tutelage.

Unfortunately their heroics have so far not guaranteed them a place in Rio with a further regional qualification tournament awaiting them next month and beyond that, if needed, one further opportunity via the repechage.

Rest assured that they will be there and with qualification will come a further funding boost which will be due reward for Friday and his players – and in this kind of form they will be one of the favourites for the gold medal.

O Brother, where art thou?

Manu Tuilagi's one-man mission to torpedo one of the most promising careers the sport has ever seen continues to astound after he pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver.

His latest crime, and make no mistake that is exactly what it was and he was lucky to escape jail time, is just the latest incident in a worryingly long list of bad choices.

Bad headlines now appear to out number his career achievements with mention of his name more likely to prompt memories of threats of deportation, punches thrown at rival players, pictures of him jumping off a ferry, giving Prime Minister David Cameron 'bunny ears' during a photo call outside No.10 and now assault convictions than recollections of his rugby prowess.

While no one is defending his actions, and quite rightly as there is no defending his behaviour, we are constantly reminded by his supporters that 'he is a young man' who is maturing and that 'we all make mistakes'.

This is true – he turned 24 this week – but the alarming rate at which Tuilagi has offended reflects badly on not only him but those around him.

Why has one of his many brothers, be it Henry, Alesana, Andy, Freddie or whoever, not pulled their young sibling into line and ordered him to sort his act out for the sake of himself and a proud rugby family?

Leicester's reputation has also been sullied by his actions and while publicly standing by their man the club must be furious at him for besmirching their name.

But they too must shoulder some of the blame for not managing a prized talent more closely and keeping Tuilagi on the straight and narrow with the player having repeatedly shown an ability to make shockingly awful decisions – unlike England coach Stuart Lancaster who must be applauded for his insistence on the highest standards both on and off the field.

We can only hope that the breathing time this gives Tuilagi enables him to return to his best form – in mind and body – and remind us why we are so frustrated at his shortcomings.

Chumps Cup?

It is not just silverware up for grabs as the domestic season in the northern hemisphere draws to a close – but also a chance to book a place at Europe's top table next season.

Sadly, that is a little easier for some than others as one look at the PRO12 table will tell you. The necessity to have at least one qualifier from each country that competes in the PRO12 – Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales – means 11th placed Treviso will take on Europe's finest next season having won just three games this season and narrowly edged out compatriots Zebre in the battle not to finish bottom of the table.

In contrast, a Connacht side that has impressed at times this season on its way to 10 league victories, a seventh place finish and 31 more league points than Treviso, miss out on automatic qualification and must face an additional qualifier against Premiership side Gloucester.

And we're still happy calling this the Champions Cup?

Non merci Monsieur Woodward

So frustrated with France's form of late, former England coach Sir Clive Woodward has reportedly thrown his hat into the ring to become their next coach after the Rugby World Cup.

Woodward has been vocal in his criticism of France's approach to the game and accused them of trying to copy other nations rather than focus on the big pack and skilful backs that have historically served them well.

As genuine his intentions, he is unlikely to get the nod ahead of Toulouse boss Guy Noves whose outstanding domestic record demands he be given a chance in the top job.

Even so, Woodward's expression of interest in leaving his comfortable corporate and pundit roles to return to front line coaching is intriguing and perhaps Jake White will now have a rival for every international vacancy that comes up?

However, on this occasion, the only Englishman the French would probably consider appointing ahead of Noves – and possibly even electing as their next President – is 'Sir Jonny' Wilkinson.

Bullish Bray wields the axe

It is unlikely to ease the Chiefs' pain after they were robbed of a win against the Hurricanes last weekend but SANZAR game manager Lyndon Bray has at least acknowledged certain Super Rugby official let him down last weekend.

"There are some basic standards that have simply not been upheld over this past weekend," said Bray in a welcome and honest statement ahead of the latest round of action.

He may not have named any names but referee Glen Jackson who took charge of the 'Canes' controversial victory must be content with running the line while Television Match Official Vinny Munro – whose decision to intervene cost the Chiefs what would have been a match-winning try – gets a week off.

Elsewhere, referee Rohan Hoffmann is another who is demoted to touch duty after his management of the Waratahs' victory over the Sharks while the TMO George Ayoub also misses out on an appointment this weekend after two controversial calls in Sydney.

"Public confidence in match officials is essential to the ongoing success of our product and we will continue striving to enhance the quality and accountability of refereeing across all SANZAR competitions,” continued Bray.

Well played Sir, now let's hope the kick up the backside does the trick.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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