Loose Pass

Date published: May 6 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with salary cap shenanigans, an international bright young thing and residency rule ruckus.

Cheats never prosper?

Reports emerged last week that English rugby's leading clubs had voted to suspend investigations into any possible salary-cap breaches.

As a result there will be no decision taken on any alleged breach until long after the May 16 date that is the cut-off point for a penalty to be handed down this season.

That means any club guilty of breaching the salary cap will avoid or delay a fine and more importantly a points deduction – ranging from four points for a minor breach to 40 for those in excess of £250,000 until next season at the earliest.

It has been suggested that Premiership Rugby have made this decision in order to protect the league's image but what damage will be done if it is later found that this season's champions had broken the rules – or a club voided relegation having totally disregarded the regulations?

As Rugby Players' Association boss Damian Hopley highlighted, salary cap breaches are akin to doping in that they create an unfair advantage and must be punished or the credibility of the competition, the clubs and the sport in general is left in tatters.

As Hopley quite rightly says, "It's just not fair. Either you play by the rules or you don't.”

Equally worrying is Premiership Rugby's secrecy. Reports suggest two clubs are currently under the microscope, but Premiership Rugby refuse to divulge whether there are any breaches being pursued – but why would the clubs delay any disciplinary process if there were no investigations ongoing?

But perhaps most puzzling is the apparent reluctance of those clubs who have played by the rules to go after those who may have cheated and whose actions may have denied them a play-off berth, a place in the Champions Cup or condemned them to relegation?

Does their inactivity suggest the alleged crimes are not that serious or that those clubs not being scrutinised see them as acceptable?

We know there is a strong desire among some clubs to raise the salary cap. Are all the clubs opting to play the long game as we are led to believe?

Maintaining a united front as they continue crucial negotiations with the Rugby Football Union over the renewal of the elite player agreement, the proposed expansion of the top flight from 12 to 14 clubs and the end of the threat of relegation?

Premiership Rugby insist there is 'no amnesty' and anyone guilty of breaking the salary cap will be punished but for many no matter what form that sanction takes it will be too little, too late.

New Zealand has a bright future

There may be concerns in New Zealand about the talent drain overseas but those fears will have been allayed by a moment of brilliance at the weekend.

Blues forward Akira Ioane may have made his Super Rugby bow earlier this season, after catching the eye for New Zealand Sevens last year, but he announced his arrival by humiliating Western Force wing Nick Cummins in their clash on Saturday.

A week after making a fool of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Ioane's power and pace were once again on show as he left his Wallabies rival in his wake as he scorched away for an outstanding try.

He is simply bursting with talent which may have something to do with his rugby genes – his father Eddie played for Manu Samoa and his mother Sandra was a Black Fern.

Ioane, whose first name means 'Bright' in the country where he was born – Japan, is just 19-years-old and is set for New Zealand U20 duty this summer but on this evidence that will just be a brief stop. A

sked what super power he would like to have and why, Ioane recently answered, 'Flying – so I wouldn't have to walk anywhere'.

But he need not worry about getting somewhere a little quicker – his outstanding talent is set to carry him into the All Blacks' ranks sooner rather than later.

No place like home?

English rugby fans rubbing their hands at the prospect of Wasps' Fiji-born star Nathan Hughes completing his three-year residency and opting for an international future with England should perhaps make the most of the elation that thought provides.

World Rugby have signalled their intent to review the Test rugby eligibility criteria and preserve the integrity of the sport and international rugby's status as the pinnacle of the game.

England are by no means not the only nation to have leveraged the current regulations and others like Scotland have been more proactive in luring talent from overseas and putting them on the residency road to Test rugby in their adopted nation – but all have been issued with a warning.

Concerned by the increasing financial power of the northern hemisphere at both club and union level, and its impact on not only the international game but also the sport's reputation, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has hinted a change is in the pipeline.

“I know that [World Rugby] president [Bernard] Lapasset has indicated that this may be something we need to look at again in the future and look at whether the three-year residency is enough to ensure that integrity of the international game,” he said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

The three-year residency requirement has made it too easy, for too long, for the richer nations to hoover up talent around the world with the promise of financial rewards and international recognition.

At last, the sport's governing body think so too and are set to act to 'preserve the specialness of the international game' and 'ensure the profile of the national team has that integrity'.

A scrapping of the residency rule is highly unlikely but a doubling of the length of time required to six years would be a good start.

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

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