This week we'll be concerning ourselves with Irish troubles, sheepish reactions, expanding horizons and the wonders of the internet…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Ireland's troubles, sheepish reactions, expanding horizons and the wonders of the internet…
On the back of a season that could only be labelled as disappointing for Ireland and Irish teams, the news that the union is set to be in hock just to keep the four teams afloat must have furrowed the brow of every Irish fan.
Having banked less than 40 percent of expected sales of future tickets – five and ten year tickets have been on sale for a while now at a cool EUR9k a pop – the union has 'fessed up and admitted it will have to borrow money to finance its professional game for the next few years.
Scotland had to go down this route yonks ago, as did Wales, with the latter recovering far better because of some ruthless international scheduling and a healthy dollop of success. Ireland have not managed either, and are paying the price.
But the most interesting part of this news is the anger in IRFU CEO Peter Browne's review of Ireland's place in the Heineken Cup negotiations which, lest we forget, are currently about as productive as ducks arguing over a crouton.
On the back of ERC CEO Derek McGrath's plea for a little more actual talk and a little less posturing, two things are pretty clear: first, that Heineken Cup revenue is vital to Irish franchises' existences, and secondly, that the negotiations are absolutely nowhere near reaching any form of sensible compromise that ensures we will have our European showpiece the season after next.
Which is a dreadful shame. Anybody you ask is absolutely sick to the back teeth of it.
Ireland will get through this problem; as Browne said, the problems are generally economy-related and will pass in time as long as the belt stays tight.
The Heineken Cup problem will not. It's nothing to do with belt-tightening, it is pure greed. It's pathetic. Just play the game. as WRU CEO Roger Lewis quite rightly pointed out: “Everyone in the game in Europe needs this competition. First for rugby and second for finance.” Time to weed out the ones not thinking of rugby…
In absolutely perfect political time this week, the IRB produced an magnificent hand-washing essay regarding the subject of concussion testing, doubtless in response to the avalanche of criticism last week over George Smith's re-entry into the final Lions Test.
The fact that the first four sentences of this press release were at an average of 50.5 words per sentence ought to tell you a lot about the desire to give a clear and concise statement on the matter, but we found the crowning glory in it all to be this little gem from IRB Chief Medical Officer Martin Raftery: “The PSCA is intended to be a supportive tool for physicians in the elite Game. If a player is clearly displaying the signs of concussion, that player must be removed from the field of play and should not return to play.”
“Concussion management is at the very heart of the IRB's player welfare strategies and the message to players, coaches and parents is clear – if in doubt, sit it out.”
We just want to know: which part of Smith's physical condition left you in no doubt he was not concussed. The staggering left leg? The head-shaking as he tried to focus his vision? The shaking left arm?
Do something about this.
Further afield, rugby continues to grow. Kenya are realistically looking at playing in the Vodacom Cup (South Africa's provincial competition that runs concurrently to Super Rugby). The Cook Islands are a mere step away from qualifying for the World Cup. Super Rugby is going to expand again soon, and it cannot be long before there is a further expansion that includes at least one, probably two or three teams from Argentina or South America. America and Canada have been involved in some great Pacific Nations Cup tussles against Japan and Tonga, while Samoa's tour in South Africa was a roaring success.
Everywhere you look, doors are being opened. Clubs from Spain, Portugal, Holland and Germany are all looking at the ERC re-negotiation curiously to see whether the E in ERC really does stand for European.
It's great. Rugby is finally entering a truly global consciousness, meeting with approval nearly everywhere it goes.
Which includes some of Austria's least charted Alpine regions, where your trusty correspondent this weekend found not only a place to watch both Super Rugby semi-finals in all their glory, but also a knowledgeable local to watch them with.
Leaving aside a curious 'I am not sure of zis McCaw, he does not always play by ze rules I zink' moment, it is safe to say the Crusaders are Austria's team – which on current form should ensure a couple of good mornings more in the Lungau.
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson