This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with investment, insulting gestures, infighting and improvisation in Afghanistan…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with investment, insulting gestures, infighting and improvisation…
Not too long after Israel Folau dotted down for the most irrelevant of scores for the Waratahs in Wellington, the details of his contract were opened up to all in a New Zealand newspaper report.
Folau, the latest in a line of leaguies to cross the code and try his hand in union, is said to be the second-highest paid rugby union player in Australia (after Quade Cooper of 'toxic team atmosphere' fame), despite having completed only his sixth game in the code on Saturday. He is said to be raking in around AU$ 750k.
It is, as the newspaper pointed out, a monumental risk. The rate of return on big-name cross-coders succeeding stands at considerably less than 50 per cent globally. Some – Mark Gasnier and Willie Mason are good examples – pretty much sink without trace.
But for Robbie Deans in a Lions tour year, it's a pain in the backside he could well do without. No doubt there will be pressure upon Deans to make sure that Folau's ARU salary commands some ARU gold jersey time, yet not only is Folau clearly behind three other players for the 15 jersey, he is also extremely unlikely to fit in at any other position.
Granted one of those ahead of him is the disgraced Kurtley Beale, but it's tough to justify Folau's inclusion in a Wallaby squad on current form. Signs are there he is developing into a solid player, but nowhere near Test class yet.
For a union so often pleading poverty, it's a staggering amount of money – even if the cost of living in Australia is rising prohibitively fast and it's less than it sounds when considered in terms of purchasing power.
We'll see what happens when Wallaby squad time comes around. But in terms of the bigger picture, it also points perhaps a very clear picture that the ARU is so unconfident in what similar sums of money might be used to bring through the youth systems that it felt it necessary to clutch at Folau whatever the cost.
Lean times ahead for Australia?
There's been some pretty shabby stuff coming from French teams for a while now. There was Dimitri Yachvili's repeated stamp of a month or so ago, which remarkably yielded only the most lenient of bans. There was David Attoub's repeated attack on Stephen Ferris' eyes. There's been countless all-in brawls down the years.
The latest transgression plumbs a new depth though, with social media quick to pick up on this effort from Stade FranÃ§ais' Jerome Fillol in his side's win over Bath on Saturday…
What is it that makes spitting so offensive? After all, rugby players generally spend an hour and a half every Saturday engaging in a good deal of assault and battery which would, in PG Wodehouse's world, see the culprits reprimanded and given thirty days without the option. And yet it is an isolated incident of spitting which has the whole rugby world up in arms.
Spitting is just contempt. A complete absence of respect or acknowledgement. Punching someone requires risk, brawn, skill. Being punched is something to respond to, a challenge. Both sides have pride on the line, both sides engage.
Spitting is an extreme, a cheap shot on the part of the spitter, who must merely exhale heartily and with timing. He delivers maximum humiliation on the part of the 'spittee' who must cope with the vile feeling of warm viscous liquid running down his face, shudder with revulsion and yet try to work out why the surge of anger when a finger has not really been laid on him.
We can deal with punches and brawls in rugby, but this is abhorrent. Attoub got 70 weeks for his eye-gouge. Let us hope that Fillol gets at least 69 – at least he wasn't going to leave Peter Stringer blind.
The Wales union v regions power struggle is quickly reaching boiling point, with a wholly unnecessary war of words permeating the media. The union and the four regions are now taking to communication by press release, which is the kind of idiocy that results in people like Alastair Campbell getting PR jobs with the British and Irish Lions.
“We're available to meet at any time but when they choose to attack us through the media, it is difficult to turn the other cheek,” said Scarlets CEO Stuart Gallagher to the media, while Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas was even more eloquent: “I sum (the WRU's tactics) up with the words power, divide, conquer, wipe-out, that's the agenda for certain people across the way.”
Not really sure about all that, but what is odd is that the WRU are not coming to the table, apparently refusing to accept the Professional Rugby Game Board – set up initially to arbitrate such clashes – as legitimate while it has a chairman with a casting vote.
But then perhaps they are at the table. Their latest press release read: “The WRU will outline, to the four Regional Organisations, a strategy for the professional game in Wales and would welcome input from all four regional organisations. The Board of the WRU, for the third time, offers the four Regional Organisations the opportunity to address them. It is now hoped that all discussions are conducted around the board table.”
Perhaps they are all waiting at different tables? Are the secretaries to blame?
Finally: ever wondered how to get just a little more weight onto that scrum machine, to get just a little bit more resistance, push out that driving pyramid a little bit harder?
Loose pass compiled by Richard Anderson