Loose Pass

Date published: May 24 2016

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_Eddie_Jones_England_training

This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with England in Australia, tenuous ancestry, great Scots and Collins Injera.

The homecoming king

Loose Pass can't wait for next month's Test window. There – we've said it. It's something we haven't uttered for a very long time – if ever. 

Normally, June is all about flogging dead horses. Battered Europeans are sent south to be humiliated by locals buzzing through the prime of their own rugby season. It's a spectacle to endure rather than enjoy.

But somehow things seem different this year, particularly around the England camp as the Wallabies loom into view. The English have actually said that they intend to win their tour series. That's something they've never done before. Not in Australia, not in South Africa, not in New Zealand. Ever.

The idea that they could break this cast-iron duck at the ragged end of a season that began before the World Cup is patently ludicrous. So why all the column inches? Why the excitement? 

Well, it's all down to Eddie Jones, isn't? He's a good coach but he's a far greater showman. His every utterance is designed to intrigue, annoy, entertain or provoke.

You're never quite sure if he's imparting great wisdom or taking the Mickey, so how does one react when he declares, as he did, that "England will upset the apple cart" in Australia? Well, you set your alarm and you tune in to watch the games. The broadcasters simply love that big mouth of his. You simply can't fail to bend an ear. He's Donald Trump without the threat of nuclear Armageddon. 

And the similarities don't end there. Just like Trump, Eddie's chat is littered with glaring contradictions and bizarre inconsistencies. 

He talks a great deal about the value of "coachability" in a player and his dislike of "mavericks", but he then tells us he's looking for players who are comfortable playing "unstructured" rugby. Huh?

He's made it clear that he's disappointed with the ball skills on display "up here", but then overlooks England's few piano players in favour of some rather cumbersome piano shifters. "Mongrel", it seems, is the actual key, not dexterity. What?

He lamented the fact that some of the England players have "not kicked on" since the Six Nations, claiming form to be a prerequisite to selection… and then hands Marland Yarde a plane ticket, ostensibly on the strength of a try he scored in 2014. Erm?

And he's constantly singing paeans to the beauty of youth… but then goes and selects an uncapped 29-year-old. Why?

We're not saying that cracks are beginning to appear, only that we're still in the dark as to Eddie's grand plan for England. 

Three back-to-back Tests against Australia in Australia should drag it out of him. 

It wouldn't be pretty but it will have us all transfixed. 

Guns for hire

We mentioned an uncapped 29-year-old in the section above. Perhaps we should elucidate for those not in the know.

His name is Ben Te'o. He was born and raised in New Zealand, represented Samoa in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and won a National Rugby League title with South Sydney Rabbitohs (alongside a certain Sam Burgess).

He currently plays for Leinster having switched codes in 2014. And, yes, he now look set to win an England cap this June.

On the face of it, it seems ludicrous. But he'll be playing for Worcester next season and it turns out his mum is of English heritage, so all is hunky dory. 

He'll be joined on the plane by Teimana Harrison. He was also born and bred in New Zealand and moved to England in 2012 after being spotted by England captain (and fellow New Zealander) Dylan Hartley. He's eligible through his father who was born in Derby but moved to New Zealand at the age of nine.

Now before someone attempts to out this correspondent as some sort of Brexit loon, be assured I'm all for the free movement of trade and people. But surely international rugby should amount to more than free enterprise. Aren't we told it's all about culture and identity and fraternity? When Harrison talks of 'home' he ain't referring to Northampton; Te'o would probably still needs help locating Worcester on a map. 

But we shouldn't pick on these guys. No less than 135 players at RWC 2015 turned out for countries they were not born in. It's totally in line with the laws of the game, of course, but it just doesn't feel right. And it's hard to imagine any other major sport standing for it. 

Agustin Pichot agrees. The Pumas legend and newly elected vice-president of World Rugby says he will seek to address the situation during his term of office. His opening suggestion is to extend the three-year residency requirement to five years for those holding the wrong passport. That would probably be a step in the right direction, but it doesn't address the issue of tenuous ancestry. 

So it's over to you. How would you police the situation? But perhaps first and more importantly, do you care? 

Great Scots!

South Africans, look away now – we need to talk about the London Sevens. Leading 26-15 in the cup final and with just 30 seconds to kill, the hot favourites conspired to lose 27-26 to Scotland. Yes… Scotland! 

We mean no disrespect, Scotland, but your boys did come out of the absolute blue. That said, they fully deserved the title having also seen off the USA and nilled England. 

And Scotland's epic win would have left Simon Amor as queasy as the Blitzbokke. The GB Sevens coach chose to name his 25-man for the Olympics before the tournament – and included just four Scots. 

But let's leave the final word to the great Collins Injera of Kenya who became the all-time leading try scorer in World Rugby Sevens Series history with this touching effort, bookended by a pass from his brother and a hug from his folks. Just feel the love! 

Loose Pass was compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson

COMMENTS