This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with enfants terribles, the Kings fiasco and the upcoming Lions tour…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with enfants terribles, the Kings fiasco and the Lions (not the ones the Kings elbowed out of Super Rugby though)…
Off home goes Kurtley Beale, a day or so after he apparently, distinctly the worse for a few tinnies, lamped one of his team-mates while cavorting shirtless on the team bus.
It should not go unnoticed that this all happened the same weekend that Zac Guildford – himself no stranger to a bout of drunken shirtless violence – made his return to the Crusaders team, looking in fine form.
Guildford's return is testament to the way the NZRU has managed what threatened to be an unmanageable situation for a while. He's been shown some very clear and consistent boundaries when he's gone off the rails, just as much as he's been shown how welcome he is when he gets back on them. But most important of all, he's been talked to and supported every step of the way.
Compare that to Beale, whose history of off-field drunken misdemeanours is just as documented as Guildford's and where the situations are tediously similar. Beale drinks too much, his already-super ego swells further and when someone dares to tell him the swelling is cramping others' style, Beale goes bonkers – he is still facing charges of assault after an incident in a Brisbane nightclub last year.
It is understood that the primary disciplinary action will come at franchise level, but the ARU, whose integrity officer Phil Thomson is already involved, will have to do something too.
The crucial question is what. You shouldn't just give up. But it's surely time for the ARU to take a leaf out of the NZRU's book and put Beale on a solid, supported foundation where Beale might feel empowered to admit he has a problem and do something about it, rather than just dishing out punishments which leave Beale feeling resentful and discouraged.
If Guildford can bounce back a changed and honest man, Beale can too. But the help has to come from above.
The most quotable line of the week comes from Cheeky Watson, whose excuse for breaching the SARU rules on fielding more than two foreigners a couple of weeks ago was revealed this week as being that he does not perceive his two Argentinean players as being foreigners, saying: “…there is a difference of opinion relating to the definition of foreign players…”
We're presuming you've now stopped laughing.
Virgil Lacombe definitely has, having flown to New Zealand for a couple of days before being flown back to Port Elizabeth to kick his heels.
“Back to square one, nothing to do with sport…How does one regard professional rugby after this??” he tweeted.
'Nothing to do with sport'… where have you heard that in relation to the Kings before?
The whole raison d'Ãªtre of the Kings was to tap into the vast well of top-quality rugby players supposedly in the Eastern Cape. It was so unfair that the Eastern Cape didn't get a look-in. It was exclusive of SARU, ring-fencing, borderline racist, blah blah blah on and on and on. Now we are being asked to accept that Argentinean is South African local.
It's such a shame. In pure rugby terms, the Kings have been better than expected, even if now the tour and the lack of squad depth is testing them sorely. Sergeal Petersen is a real find.
But in terms of 'nothing to do with sport', the Kings are proving every bit as poor as they promised to be.
With the sun now set on the Six Nations, the cream of Britain and Ireland's crop has most likely given its final audition for Warren Gatland and the Lions tour to Australia.
Obviously there are some Heineken Cup ties looming, but that hardly includes the Welsh players, while a viewing of the Waratahs v Blues and Saracens v Harlequins matches on the same day on Sunday revealed just how far behind Super Rugby the Premiership is at the moment. Club form might be a tie-breaker, but it's not going to be a decisive factor.
Anyway, we are assuming that Warren Gatland will take 37 players on the tour right now, so here's the Loose Pass pick of 37, with a starting Test XV at the end. Be gentle…
Squad: Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Cian Healy, Dan Cole, Mako Vunipola, Euan Murray, Rory Best, Richard Hibbard, Dylan Hartley, Geoff Parling, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Richie Gray, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton, Jamie Heaslip, Chris Robshaw, Toby Faletau, Sean O'Brien, Ben Youngs, Mike Phillips, Danny Care, Jonathan Sexton, Dan Biggar, Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell, Jamie Roberts, Brian O'Driscoll, Brad Barritt, Jonathan Davies, George North, Alex Cuthbert, Simon Zebo, Sean Maitland, Leigh Halfpenny, Rob Kearney.
Test XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rory Best, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson