This week we will be concerning ourselves with the new clutch of cross-coders, a look ahead to the new European season and the scrum.
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the new clutch of cross-coders, a look ahead to the new European season and the scrum.
Benji Marshall is the latest name to join those of the rugby league elite giving the 'amateur' game a stab, potentially following Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau in making a huge splash in Super Rugby and beyond.
“Benji has the ability to break open a game; he's one of those players that does the right thing at the right time,” said a clearly ecstatic Blues coach John Kirwan. There are any number of youtube hit reels to back him up.
Of course, the right thing at the right time in league is a very different concept to the right thing at the right time in union. Ask Sonny Bill, who took a long time both to find his true position and to master the arts of knowing when to offload, when to carry the ball like a loaf of bread, and when to crash it up the middle.
However, Williams, Marshall and for that matter Folau do have one thing in common that several others do not: they are prodigiously talented. There is no small number of times where a potentially bad decision has been rendered good merely by dint of their ability to do the extraordinary. But as time has gone on, both SBW and Folau have significantly improved their decision-making to the extent where the talent backs it up rather than replaces it.
For Marshall, a few hours spent quaffing orange juice with the other two would not go amiss. Both are classy rugby union players now, both having been humble enough to work and analyse themselves to death daily in order to make them fine players rather than loose cannons blessed with talent. Only if Marshall is able to do that will he prove a success.
Three weeks out from the Premiership, PRO12, a week out from the Top 14 and a couple of months from the Heineken Cup seasons and the battle lines are already being drawn.
How will London Irish react to being called a team where nobody can progress? What will Richard Cockerill say next? Can Newcastle bounce back and stay back?
Meanwhile in France, can Toulon finally take home the title? How will the new phalanx of foreigners settle into their new clubs?
In the Celtic zones: can a Scottish or Welsh region mount a serious Heineken Cup challenge? Will Ireland's dominance continue? And how will the Italian clubs fare this year in the PRO12?
Then in October, get a load of these fixtures: Ospreys v Leinster, Toulon v Cardiff Blues, Toulouse v Saracens, Clermont v Quins, Ulster v Leicester, Munster v Gloucester…the Heineken Cup is back and booming!
Which begs the biggest question of all hanging over it: how much will the money on offer from BT be abused by various self-interested parties to truly stuff up European club rugby…
Finally, not only the Rugby Championship, ITM Cup and Top 14 will kick off this weekend, but also the new scrum engagement sequence of 'crouch, bind, set', where the opposing props are set to bind onto each other's jerseys and hold the piece stable before the referee calls the 'set'.
Having watched one – admittedly only good amateur rather than professional – team go through familiarising themselves with it, there seems at the outset to be just as many problems keeping the hit straight as there were with the old sequence. Referees are going to have to watch very hard how props manipulate their binds as the engage happens.
But we'll trust them to do so. Perhaps more than we might trust them to get right what ought to be the easiest part of it all: making the ball go in straight. Too much to keep an eye on?
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson