Loose Pass

Date published: July 15 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with South Pacific shortcomings, De Villiers' defiance and Cipriani's waiting game.

A promise to the Pacific?

The reception that welcomed New Zealand's painfully overdue first ever Test in Samoa last week was almost as warm as that given to the All Blacks themselves when they landed on the South Pacific island.

Samoa were not so friendly come kick off and made New Zealand work hard for a 25-16 victory but the warmth returned at the final whistle along with renewed hope that such a game will become a regular fixture on the international calendar.

But sadly there seems little chance of the All Blacks and their Tier 1 rivals dropping by in the near future.

The World Rugby international tours schedule illustrates that only Wales are set to visit the Pacific between now and 2019 and that tour is scheduled to take place in 2017 when their leading players are likely to be on duty with the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.

That same eight-year schedule, that kicked into action in 2012, dictated the destination for all the June tours within that time frame and promised more visits to the Pacific Islands, North America and Japan – but with conditions.

Japan took priority and were guaranteed the chance to host major Tests every year between 2015 and 2019 due to the need to build awareness and a loyal fan base ahead of them hosting the Rugby World Cup.

And North America came next in terms of precedence due to the fact that the Pacific nations are already assured of at least some exposure to the top sides during the November international window.

As a result, the likes of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga must rely on the willingness of the leading nations to add additional games to the calendar like the All Blacks did last week.

Unfortunately a visit to one of their near-neighbours is not good business and cannot boost the balance sheet like one-off games staged in Japan or the United States.

But surely it is not all about money.

The images from Samoa that lit up the rugby world last week, including the combined team photo at full time, generated no-end of goodwill and priceless positive PR for not only the All Blacks but the game as a whole.

New Zealand and Australia must take the lead and ensure that they prioritise the Pacific over profits.

Regular visits by top-class opposition are a must but the southern hemisphere giants are not only leading nations to have benefited from the Pacific Islands' ability to produce top rugby players.

The likes of England and France have also tapped into that talent pool and must share that responsibility by adding a few fresh stamps to their passports.

World Rugby can then do its part by granting the region greater representation on the next tour's schedule.

De Villiers defies belief

If you were not on your feet along with the Newlands crowd when Jean de Villiers made his comeback from injury against a World XV at the weekend then shame on you.

The Springboks' centre deserves immense credit having battled back to fitness just nine months after dislocating his knee and suffering ligament damage while on international duty against Wales.

His World Cup hopes looked to have been dashed following one of the most horrific on-field incidents in recent memory but the warrior-like qualities we have come to know and respect clearly served him well during what must have been a painful rehabilitation.

His journey is not yet complete and he will continue his quest for full fitness in the shadow of the Rugby Championship with Western Province ahead of their Currie Cup defence.

But you sense that the inspirational De Villiers will be in the spotlight when the Boks kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan on September 19.

Cipriani's World Cup dream still alive

England launched their latest kit this past week with the hi-tech strip set to debut at the forthcoming World Cup.

One player hoping to pull on the shirt and benefit from such performance-enhancing features such as a 3D red rose is Danny Cipriani who received a significant boost to his chances of finally appearing at a World Cup by surviving the first cull by England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Northampton Saints fly-half Stephen Myler was one of those cut from the England training squad ahead of their high-altitude camp in Denver in a move that appears to suggest Cipriani is set to provide cover to first-choice No.10s George Ford and Owen Farrell.

His ability to also provide cover at full-back certainly works in his favour but his chances still hang by a thread thanks to a possible drink-drive charge stemming from a traffic accident back in June.

He must report to a police station next month to see if he will face further action that would in turn end his World Cup chances given Lancaster's demand for the highest standards from his players at work and at play.

Widely regarded as one of the most gifted players of his generation, Cipriani missed out on selection for the 2007 tournament and his Super Rugby stint with Melbourne Rebels put paid to his selection chances four years later.

Lancaster's feelings about the player are now clear which will make the disappointment all the greater were Cipriani to become the third player following an ill-disciplined Dylan Hartley and law-breaking Manu Tuilagi to effectively rule himself out of contention.

The World Cup needs the sport's best players to showcase the game but it also needs them to be the best they can be both on and off the field.

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

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