This week we'll be concerning ourselves with head-banging, the Rugby Championship, Richard Cockerill and the relegated Kings…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with head-banging, a look towards the Rugby Championship, Richard Cockerill and the Kings…
There have been swathes of words on the subject of blows to the head over the past few weeks, yet we here cannot remember one jot of actual action – bar that long-winded IRB press release. They could have just clicked the 'it's complicated' button and we'd have been just as informed.
Many of the other words have been on two subjects: firstly, that players actually know how to cheat the concussion 'tests' administered on the sideline (although there is another school of thought which says that as long as you can count to one and don't fall over you are likely to be ok), followed by the remarkably-timed report that a surgeon has found evidence of repeated concussions leading to dementia.
Agreed, the links are worth mentioning in dispatches, but is this really something new? Playing rugby with concussion is dangerous, doing it over and over again even more so? The timing and extreme content of that study does lend itself to being something of a media sensation campaign, pressure leverage.
But someone has to do something like that, because nobody else seems to be doing anything at all. There have been no revised concussion test rules, no abolition of the concussion test in favour of a common sense analysis of whether a person can stand straight or not, barely even a whisper from trainers and coaches that they will insist on following the 'if in doubt, sit it out' mantra.
How far does it need to go before there is some common sense? Well, here's a threshold of sorts: 5,000 plaintiffs spread among 250 lawsuits filed by NFL players against the NFL (who are the employers of all players). A month ago, the cases went to mediation, which suggests that the NFL are going to settle rather than admit they got the concussion issue badly wrong. Would rugby have to go that far first too or is someone going to do something about it?
This year's Rugby Championship is going to be fascinating. You have Australia, reeling from a Lions Test series defeat and champing at the bit for a new, Quade Cooper-led beginning. You have South Africa, whose local well of talent is still so dry that Fourie du Preez has been called from Japan. You have Argentina, who have quietly taken their elite away to Florida with Graham Henry and could emerge with anything. And you have New Zealand, who still seem unable to regenerate entirely.
Managing players to take the All Blacks through to 2015 is one thing, but it's costing the team in terms of opportunities and experience for the youngsters now. The squad named by Steve Hansen has only two centres in it – one if you refer to a 12 as second five-eighth – and both are the wrong side of 30 already, one can't even find a team to play for, so wretched has been his domestic form.
The return of Richie McCaw means no place for Matt Todd, who really has played well for the Crusaders this year. It may also dumb down the chances of Sam Cane continuing his progression.
We'll not start being silly and saying that this is a team about to be derailed, but only two years out from a World Cup, the AB management is looking more and more as though it is stacking all hopes on the old heads surviving injury, which also looks to mean the up and comers may not get the chances they deserve – or, and going on form this Super Rugby competition, the new crop may just not be good enough.
Sticking with the oldies is a policy that has worked in the past – not least for England – but with frustrated players still exiting by the dozen and thus ineligible for selection under the NZRU's overseas policy, leaving a lesser and thinner crop behind, it's one fraught with risk.
Brilliant line at the bottom of Leicester's statement on Richard Cockerill's generally unsuccessful appeal this week: “We remain disappointed with the RFU's conduct in this matter…”
We are reasonably certain that, with Cockerill having bellowed the words 'smash the c**** because they aren't getting any protection', as well as going on the record as saying the words 'f***' and 'f***ing' were justified in the circumstances, as well as maintaining that players who swear at referees need not be sent off or disciplined, the RFU remain disappointed with Cockerill's conduct in this matter too.
Also, we are reasonably certain that out of a clash between a foul-mouthed coach and the domestic game's governing body, we know who is bigger and more important.
And while on the subject of futile ranting, these from Alan Solomons after the Kings lost their Super Rugby status – with common sense answers:
“I think it is an absolute disgrace that we are not in Super Rugby…” – It was something of a disgrace the way you got in in the first place actually…
“We got the rough end of refereeing decisions in the first match and it cost us our Super Rugby status. To say the least it is unsatisfactory.” – Nothing to do with the number of actual Super Rugby matches you lost then.
“The South African Rugby Union have to ensure that we are in the Premier Division of the Currie Cup at the very least.” – No they don't. You have to do that by winning the pool games and then the play-offs, just like everyone else.
Anything else? OK – now go get out of the Currie Cup first division.
By Richard Anderson