This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with some bad time keeping, juggling jobs, dirty tricks and bulging wallets.
The clock is still ticking
If there was such a thing as the Glen Jackson Fan Club then I would be a paid up member so impressed have I been by the Kiwi's transition from more than capable fly-half to respected referee. But I would be thinking again about my subscription after he dropped a clanger during his handling of Wales' victory over Scotland in their Six Nations clash at Murrayfield on Sunday.
A thrilling clash was punctuated by a few controversial calls but it was the fiery finale that grates with Jackson guilty of losing track of time. Scotland scored a late try through Jon Welsh to bring themselves within striking range of their rivals after a which a spat between the players ate up precious time.
Finn Russell knocked over the conversion to close the gap to three points and the match clock showed that there were still a priceless few seconds left in the game – but not according to Jackson. Replays showed that Jackson was unclear regarding the time left and appeared to check with the official timekeeper on the sideline before blowing his whistle to end the match.
It was an embarrassing error that denied the Scots one final chance to draw or even win the game and simply should not happen in a game of this magnitude.
Imagine a similar mistake being made in a Rugby World Cup final? It would tarnish the game, the tournament and the sport and a repeat must be avoided. There is no excuse for the officials getting this wrong and while Jackson was let down by those around him it is his bid to take charge of high-profile clashes in the near future that will suffer.
Two-timing the Tahs?
Michael Cheika's decision to combine his Waratahs role with his duties as Wallabies coach raised a few eyebrows at the end of last year with many questioning his ability to juggle the two jobs. How could a coach divide his time and still give each role the attention it deserves – albeit only for a year with Cheika set to concentrate fully on the national job from the end of the Super Rugby season?
Surely there would be a conflict of interest when he coached his team against other players vying to earn international selection? A defiant Cheika insisted it would be all about 'discipline' ahead of the season: "When I’m at Waratahs, physically here, I’m not doing anything to do with the Wallabies. And when I’m away from here I’m able to do things with the Wallabies.”
We are only one week into the Super Rugby competition and already the doubters have the ammunition that they craved with the defending champions having lost their opening clash to Australian rivals Western Force.
The fact that the defeat came at home – where the Waratahs did not lose once last year on their way to the title – turned up the pressure even more. A brave journalist asked Cheika post-game if he would re-think his workload but the question was dismissed as 'irrelevant' with Tahs boss adding, “This is about what's happening in training and how or what our plan is. None of that has anything to do with it.”
The heat would appear to be getting to Cheika already and it is only going to get hotter if the Waratahs fail to bounce back in the coming weeks. A campaign that continues to falter will not be good for Cheika or the Wallabies with the drain on the coach sure to have an impact on his ability to perform to his best in both roles.
Few have managed to multi-task in such a way with Warren Gatland temporarily stepping down from his Wales role ahead of leading the British & Irish Lions to Australia in 2013.
His Lions predecessor Sir Ian McGeechan also took some time out from his role as Wasps' director of rugby ahead of the 2009 tour to South Africa but the club still arguably suffered as they finished without a trophy for the first time in seven seasons. The Wallabies and Waratahs have been warned.
This past weekend offered plenty of reminders of the brutal physical nature of the modern game. Injuries to the likes of England's Mike Brown and Ireland's Jonathan Sexton were worrying but accepted as part of the sport but that is not the case for the cheap shot inflicted on Ireland's Jamie Heaslip by France's Pascal Papé.
The knee that hammered into Heaslip's back as Papé joined a maul was a shocking act of violence equal in severity to any stamp and you would not expect such dirty tricks from the veteran and respected French lock.
France coach Philippe Saint-André view on the incident was predictable -”I don't think you can say it was deliberate” – and post-game he was more concerned about the cost of the yellow card to his side's fortunes. But he should get used to playing without Papé who we can only hope is sidelined at least as long Heaslip who looks set to be ruled out of the Championship and beyond with a back injury.
Share the wealth
The cash-strapped Australian Rugby Union are reportedly poised to be boosted by their share of a new TV rights deal secured by the SANZAR partners. ARU chief Bill Pulver's financial woes are set to be eased by a doubling of the amount they receive to A$35m-40m for the five-year term from 2016-2020.
This is great news for a union that, according to Pulver, was on the brink of insolvency 18 months ago and perhaps it should be accompanied by a scrapping of the controversial 'participation' fee recently introduced at grassroots level in a bid to ease the strain on the ARU coffers.
The extra cost imposed on all senior and junior players has only heightened fears of a further drop in playing numbers and as welcome the impending financial injection of the TV deal income, an extension of the ARU's partnership with their pay-per-view partner Fox Sports will continue to limit the sport's exposure. It is time to cut clubs some slack or risk turning more people off the game.
Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins