This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Jake White, England, a note on skills coaching, a scourge and an intense character…
White for white?
Does anybody know the cause of the fire for the England job that burns within Jake White's belly? Loose Pass doesn't, but it is obviously there and burning brighter than ever – it has done so ever since White was ushered out of the tracksuit of power in South Africa. Clearly the media plays a role, but every time an England coach begins to teeter, there's Jake declaring not only his interest, but practically starting an election campaign to rival Donald Trump.
A couple of people have opined that he might well be the right guy (half-decent track record and all), while quite a few have opined the opposite. This, then is already a bad start – would you want an opinion-splitting coach taking control of your group of players who, by their own accounts, already don't really trust each other?
Would you want a coach whose loyalty appears to be as brittle as the defence of the team he currently coaches (that would be Montpellier, trounced by six tries to on Thursday), one who has openly declared his ultimate interests lie elsewhere less than a season into his current job?
Would you want a coach who has created the sense of identity at his current team by fobbing off many of the longer-serving locals and bringing in a phalanx of his old mates from overseas? Would you want a coach who respects the integrity of the hiring process for the national job so very much that he publicly proclaims that the usual round of interviews would be something he ought to be exempt from?
Too good to be interviewed, unattentive to local culture, openly disloyal, divisive of opinion, outspoken. This, one would surmise, is exactly the LAST thing England need right now. Given Ian Ritchie's track record then, he'll probably get the job. Plus ça change, as they say in Montpellier…
Many a true word
One of the most revealing soundbites Loose Pass can think of regarding the gulf in pretty much everything between the English clubs and the national team came during Leicester's win over Stade Francais on Friday.
As Brendan O'Connor pilfered another Parisian ball, winning a penalty in the process, the match commentator remarked on his eligibility for England (O'Connor is Kiwi by birth), further adding that this particular fact would be something Richard Cockerill might have preferred to keep secret.
Ha! Yet the inference, the true word spoken in jest, was uncomfortably obvious: one of England's leading clubs would very much like to keep that fact secret if it could. Gone are the days when the clubs would be proud of their England stars; these days having an international in the team is a blessing and a curse.
There are things that could solve this – a sensible fixture calendar is one Loose Pass just pulled out of thin air – but good grief things are bad in English rugby that when such a joke is made your mind immediately tends to look at the truth and not the humour.
A matter at hand
It's a tiny aspect, but it's beginning to become a pet peeve of Loose Pass. Moreover, it's yet another obvious difference between north and south: the matter of carrying the ball in the right hand.
Three tries I can remember went begging at the weekend, while the opening scorer in the Gloucester-Zebre match was particularly lucky not to increase that number. All three were because the carrier could not fend his would-be tackler, as his inside mitt was clinging grimly to the ball while his outside one was…
This is something you do not see in Super Rugby. During the World Cup the Pumas even wove a hand-changing drill into their warm-up. The devil is in the detail when it comes to scoring the tries in the tight games and this detail is so frequently overlooked. And as if to prove my point, the Dragons on Sunday in the first half: 38 percent possession, twice as many tackles as their opponents, but when those breaks such as that for their first try were made, that ball changed hands effortlessly to allow the fends and offloads. It's a tiny detail, but it is all too precious.
Hold on a minute
Let's be honest: George North was incredibly lucky. That stamp should have been red – away from the head or not (and it was not that far).
BUT – and it was seen in a couple of other games this weekend as the provoking incident for a bit of handbags – is it not about time to crack down on those who lie at the bottom of a ruck or maul, clinging grimly on to the ankles of someone trying to get away, thus preventing him from doing so?
It's like shirt-pulling, or running away with the ball when the opposition gets a penalty or other things like that: not fun, not conducive to rugby, not needed, and not unlikely to set off a scrap. It's also not something a few swift penalties or yellow cards wouldn't eradicate quickly.
The Champion of Causes
You may remember David Pocock's last off-season being marked by his arrest, after he chained himself to a digger in order to protest against mining activity in New South Wales.
Pocock has now moved on from Greenpeace-style militancy and into the front line, teaming up with a crew of chaps hunting rhinoceros poachers in Zimbabwe's Save Valley.
It's unclear whether Pocock, who was born and raised in Gweru in Central Zim, has been drafted in as a marksman or as an advisor on master poachers' strategy, but either way Loose Pass can only bow down and say: "Respect!"
Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Danny Stephens