Loose Pass

Date published: June 13 2012


This week we'll be concerning ourselves with Pumas, Zebras and other animals…

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Pumas, Zebras, squawkers and other animals…

It's good times for Argentina. Far from the tired lot worrying over the looming club v country contractual conflicts caused by the Rugby Championship we were expecting, the Pumas gave Italy a real lesson on Saturday, their most impressive performance in a long time.

The U20 side has been equally excellent, downing both France and Australia in the Junior World Championship in South Africa.

Gus Pichot has now come forth and announced Argentina's intention to bid for the 2023 World Cup, as well as perhaps a longer-term effort to get a team into the Super Rugby tournament – an effort of which the progress will be intriguing to follow in the wake of what happens to the Kings in South Africa.

It's early days and there's a tough Rugby Championship or two to get through first, but there's little denying now that the Pumas are not only here to stay, but here to challenge the top of the order. It's great news for rugby in general, but if they could get that World Cup as well…

But lest Argentina get too ahead of themselves, the bumps in the road Italy have experienced in getting teams into international professional leagues should serve as a warning: pro success does not come cheap or without a monumental effort in terms of both patience and financial sacrifice off the pitch.

Italy's new team the Zebras has become an official entity this week, with an impressive line-up of local coaching talent in Alessandro Troncon and Vicenzo Troiani, while manager Fabio Ongaro will surely add his experience to the team from the managerial position.

But perhaps the most important lesson has now been learned: keep within your financial constraints. This is not a league where relegation is a problem and while nobody wants to be whipping boys, a newly-created team is almost guaranteed to be weaker than others.

Overspending to compensate for that, however, will only weaken the long-term prospects…

It has become apparent that Toulon are not the only ones a little miffed at the perceived imbalance in the corridors of power of the French Federation, but the noise they are making…

For now, the Toulon administration is furious that Carl Hayman's ban – which may have been a part of the reason Toulon's scrum spent much of the Top 14 final creaking – was not overturned as Castres' Joe Tekori's was.

It never helps once you've cried 'Wolf' a couple of times already, and Mourad Boujellal's comparison of the officiating in Toulon's match against Clermont to a porn film where his side was very much on the 'bent over the desk' side of the proceedings has reduced credibility somewhat, not to mention the blot on his disciplinary copybook.

But rich powerful men will be rich powerful men, and neither Boujellal nor his political aide Bernard Laporte left journalists in any doubt of their opinion of the LNR's judiciary and powerbrokers after Saturday's defeat.

“I am quite clear in my mind that Toulouse did not want Hayman to play,” said Laporte.

“We want accuracy and consistency in the judiciary, one rule for all, clarity. Our leaders have a duty to provide that.

“People still laugh at rugby, say it has not changed, that it still carries two different weights and measures when it comes to justice… I said this to Pierre-Yves Revol's (LNR President and former Castres President) face.

“This way of operating is scandalous. It is an archaic world – much more clarity is needed. It's like all our players only receiving a ticket each for friends and family while all these LNR cads get ten free tickets for their aunts and mistresses.”

Boujellal was even less obscure.

“The Final was played at 6pm on Friday (Hayman's appeal hearing),” said Boujellal.

“The prosecution had none of the evidence it was asked to provide, yet the defence was penalised for asking for it. It can't exist in law.

“In rugby, people are in place for a long time, they may be honest, but they take advantage of the fact they know each other and that there's no investigation. Anything can pass and eventually they get so old they ought to just pass on.

“After a while it becomes a caricature. Some people are too old to understand that the world has changed over the past ten years. The modern era is overwhelming for them.

“They have to understand the need for change. But they are old, they cling until they are almost evaporated, and they'll stay until they are incontinent. It has to stop. There comes an age when you can no longer manage the modern world.”

Wonder what the judiciary has to say about that lot…

The saga with London Welsh will come to an end, one way or another, on June 21 when their appeal against their being bounced from the gates of the Premiership by the muscles of the fine print will be heard.

Hopefully justice will prevail and the Exiles will be let in. But in the meantime, it's possibly a little inappropriate of Premier Rugby to embrace so emphatically Saracens' initiative to take the club's home matches around the south-east of England while they wait for their new stadium to be ready in February.

“What we are looking at doing is playing in areas where there has not yet been a Premiership rugby match,” said Sarries' CEO Ed Griffiths.

“So, for example, Essex is one of our catchment areas and there are more rugby clubs in Essex than in any other county except for Yorkshire. There's never been a Premiership rugby match in Essex, so we've looked at Roots Hall, which is the home of Southend United. The same goes with Kent and also with other areas closer to central London.

“There are a lot of hoops to go through but we are keen to play a game in Cape Town. It is possible that we might take some games and create events at one-off venues. It is also possible we might have between one and eight games at Vicarage Road but I think what we'll end up with is a fantastically exciting season.”

So wait… Sarries can hop around at will from continent to continent for one-offs, but London Welsh can't even relocate to the planned regulation-fulfilling facility in Oxford?

And Laporte and Boujellal thought they had problems with double-standards in the corridors of power…

Finally, given all the 'jobs for the boys' sentiment going round this week, it seems only fitting that a little spat should arise in the IRB's boardrooms, where former IRFU President Peter Boyle submitted his resignation from the interview panel in charge of finding a new CEO to replace Mike Miller, claiming that “the [application] process is fundamentally flawed and not open, fair and transparent”.

The ubiquitous headhunters Odgers Berndston were taked with leading the search, which The Times claimed had 20 applicants long listed with a view to that being whittled down to a shortlist of four.