Loose Pass

Date published: December 1 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a taster of England’s things to come, a phoenix from the flames, and Fijian table service…

The tale of Eddie and Clive

As this edition of Loose Pass goes to press, an interesting ‘full-circle’ type story will be completed at RFU HQ. Eddie Jones’ coaching staff will gather together (or at least, Jones stated they’d all start on December 1) and listen to the affable Aussie present his vision for England Rugby for the next four years. That vision is said to include ensuring all of the gathered are aware that one of them ought to be Jones’ successor after Japan 2019. But it’s the desk that rings some intriguing bells.

Jones’ current desk, or at least the incarnation thereof, is of course the one that first appeared on Sir Clive Woodward’s first day (no England coach had hitherto had his own desk or office, or even phone at Twickers) with the former England head devoting more than a couple of autobiography paragraphs to the desk’s symbolism of England’s move towards a more professional mindset, despite the resistance of the flatulente upstairs.

Indeed, Woodward’s intransigence was such that he simply took over the RFU reception desk before an office was found – remarkably quickly – for him. And so he set a tone, a straight-talking, uncompromising, revolutionary tone which culminated in Woodward’s England’s triumph over Jones’ Australia in Sydney in 2003.

Woodward left England in 2004, remarking that working with the RFU was like skiing uphill. It’s an oft-remarked upon fact that pretty much the entire dynasty he created went with him, not to mention the knowledge of all the players and staff. Them upstairs were obviously awfully grateful to Woodward for making them look good, but them upstairs also sounded awfully relieved that the straight-talking, uncompromising, revolutionary, even daring atmosphere around the England side was gone. There have been no more revolutionaries, no more business professionals, no more innovators in the England coach’s tracksuit since. And we all know how that has ended up.

In an interesting parallel, Jones left Australia a year later, removed from his post. Some years later, as he and Woodward enjoyed a beer together courtesy of the Daily Mail, he said: “It was my fault mainly. I tried too much too soon. After 2003 we assumed England would get better and better – build a dynasty – so I tried to implement some radical stuff with Rugby World Cup 2007 in mind.”

“Radical stuff” is precisely what the current England set-up needs, and is most likely what will be colouring the air around the England coach’s desk first time as Jones lays down his vision. Them upstairs now have themselves another straight-talking, uncompromising, revolutionary man in the job, who as you read could be daring his chosen support staff to be the same. England’s new revolutionary could be the same man Woodward vanquished in a World Cup Final 12 years ago, working from the desk Woodward himself established.

And as for straight-talking… well, not even Woodward has the gift for ‘telling it as it is’ that Jones has. Remember this little gem?

Imagine what might follow an England defeat to Scotland in February!

Back from the dead

On April 10, 2012, the Telegraph almost forlornly reported the likely demise of Wasps. Losing $3.2m per year, without a home, with the owner arrested as part of a computer-hacking investigation and with several players on their way out, one of England’s most traditional clubs was doomed.

Wind forward three and a half years: Wasps have just thrashed European champions Toulon with as devastating a performance as you could wish for in the Heineken Cup. It was reminiscent of the dismantling of Perpignan in 2004. Since the World Cup finished, Wasps have taken four from four in often breathtaking style and as a result of the move to Coventry – which not all agreed with – the destruction of Toulon was played in front of the biggest crowd in Europe.

Coach Dai Young – surely on current form a likely successor to Warren Gatland – has proved a shrewd operator in the player market, with Nathan Hughes, George Smith and Charles Piutau undoubtedly the signings of the season so far. Then there’s the sprinkling of home-grown talent given free reign to run at gaps and offload, such as Joe Simpson and Elliot Daly. Joe Launchbury’s name has popped up on lists of England captaincy candidates.

Financially the move to Coventry has rescued them, as has the bond sale which has quietly raised a wealth of funds. 43 months on from that news report, the sting in the Wasps tale is being felt everywhere but Coventry.

Cava with that, sir?

An eventful flight for some became a chance for a team bonding and co-ordination exercise for Fiji’s sevens team this week.

On the team’s flight from Nadi to Brisbane, a lady collapsed, thoroughly interrupting the cabin service as the attendants rushed to the stricken passenger’s aid. By all accounts, the Virgin staff struggled – as you might expect – to maintain their cabin smiles and feed the hungry.

Enter the Fijians who despite – as one witness put it – “were all 6’5” tall and weighing about 150kg” and thus somewhat larger than your average caledonian gal attendant, the team got the food and drinks out, trolleys back and rubbish bins disposed of. The effort even drew praise from Virgin for its professionalism as well as the kindness!

Next up for the Fijians: Dubai, where they’ll be hoping to resume their usual five-star service on terra firma…

Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Danny Stephens

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