Loose Pass

Date published: September 29 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the World Cup schedule, a simmering Saint-Andre and fun and games with the Boks.

Schedule shortcomings remain a concern

This Rugby World Cup was billed as the most competitive ever and for a while they had us fooled.

Japan knocking over South Africa was certainly the greatest upset the tournament has ever seen and hopes were high that they would take another major scalp against Scotland when they took to the field again just four days later but it was not to be.

To his credit, Japan coach Eddie Jones refused to blame fatigue for his side's defeat insisting his charges were simply beaten by the better team but there is little doubt that the rapid turnaround was a major factor.

World Rugby insist the match schedule for this tournament is a step forward following widespread criticism four years ago but there clearly are issues if teams are forced to accept less recovery and preparation time for an opponent when compared to one of their pool rivals.

Such are the physical and mental demands of the sport that three days of recovery are simply not adequate – you would not ask a side such as South Africa to tackle New Zealand and Australia within a similar time frame that that level of performance is what was expected of the Brave Blossoms.

It is World Rugby's hope that the Tier 2 nations continue to close the gap and if they continue to defy the odds then there will come a day when they are true contenders for the sport's biggest prize and refuse to accept such a demanding schedule.

Offering a week between games to recover and prepare – as they do in other international windows and in all the leading domestic competitions – would appear to make the most sense but there will be concerns about the overall length of the tournament and the impact on the northern hemisphere club season.

The current schedule does Tier 2 nations and tournament itself few favours. The huge boost in terms of profile offered by the unbridled joy of the likes of Japan and Georgia is effectively doused by World Rugby themselves with an unfair fixture list.

Les Bleus turn the air blue

Sport is never more compelling than when you can see it clearly matters to those on the front line.

A fine example of such behaviour came to light this week thanks to the changing room cameras at the Olympic Stadium.

After seeing his side labour to a 17-6 half-time lead over the rugby powerhouse that is Romania, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre could be seen tearing strips off his side in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to raise his troops from their slumber.

His players appeared to be paying attention but it was not the inspirational rallying call he would have hoped with France doing just about enough to quell Romania's fire in the second half.

It sparked more of a reaction from social media that devours such delights with 'lip readers' letting us into the secrets of Saint-Andre's speech and his quest for the player who had apparently 'eaten his eclair'.

All jokes aside, in complete contrast to the often bland soundbites that emanate before and after a game, this was a priceless and passionate insight that underlined how much this tournament means to those lucky enough to be involved.

Fun and games with the Boks

In another sensational piece of unfiltered World Cup fodder, we were also granted an insight into the fun and games that go on during a Springboks tour this week.

South Africa's official magazine served up a brief interview with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar to the social media masses during which he was asked what was the funniest prank that he had witnessed on tour?

To perhaps save his team-mates' blushes, Pienaar chose to recall a prank that he was the subject of during a tour to Australia a couple of years ago.

After a night out with the squad, he woke to find an alarmingly white face greeting him in the bathroom mirror having been covered in baby powder by team-mates – and we presume drinking buddies – Schalk Burger and Butch James.

It is heartening to know that the hijinks and japery that form part of the grassroots culture remain a part of the elite game but the decision to dial up the fun factor in the days after the most galling of defeats at the hands of Japan may not have been so welcome.

Drunk on success

It was all going so well for South Africa and then someone had to go and spoil it.

Just as the Boks had pulled themselves out the gutter one idiot drags South African rugby back into the muck with an ill-advised attempt to join the action at Villa Park.

Thankfully this wasn't a repeat of the Piet Van Zyl madness back in 2008 when the crazed fan chose to attack referee David McHugh but it still doesn't reflect well on the Boks or indeed a tournament that had yet to put a foot wrong.

Sadly this idiot will get more than his five minutes of fame thanks to endless vines and gifs of his moment of madness and it is shame that what turned out to be Jean de Villiers' final international appearance will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Luckily Duane Vermeulen was on hand to deal with the situation – just a shame he didn't ensure someone else didn't suffer a broken jaw.

Magnificent Mauro

Italy may not have set the world alight with a narrow victory over Canada but one player is deserving of huge praise.

For many, Mauro Bergamasco will forever be remembered for his disastrous game at scrum-half against England at Twickenham in 2009 but that is a little unfair on the 105-Test veteran.

His appearance off the bench against the Canucks means he has now featured at five Rugby World Cups – a feat only previously achieved by Samoa's Brian Lima.

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

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