This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with the demise of the Six Nations.
After an opening weekend which left us feeling betrayed and ever so slightly vulnerable, Loose Pass had high hopes for Valentine’s Day weekend and our second date with the Six Nations.
We doubted we’d fall back in love so soon after being wronged so publicly, but we wanted to be moved. We want to feel at least a frisson of excitement. We wanted to be told: “I can change.”
We heard nothing of the sort. All we saw was the same coy advances, the same lame moves. More fumbling. More miscommunication. Fingers and thumbs and schoolboys all over the shop.
But this time the fetid limpness was devoid of excuses and apologies: these blokes actually thought they’d done the business. They actually believed that they had entertained us!
We saw French players punching the air in delight following probably the poorest game in living memory. We saw Welsh players whooping it up after lucking it out against Scotland at home. We saw English players talking the talk after producing 50 minutes of rugby that would have made a pub team blush.
Worse was to come: the media just went along with the ride. The Welsh “have showed their credentials”. There’s “shades of 2003” to the England team. Both can start to “dare to dream of another Grand Slam”. That ‘thing’ in Paris was also given the spin: Ireland’s “transition” needs to be taken into account; the French are still “finding their feet”.
Sure, we loved the slow-burning tension generated by this year’s games. We’ll also vouch for the history and the pageantry and the tradition and the yada yada yada. Dr Jamie Roberts’s scant disregard for his own Hippocratic Oath is also highly commendable. But does anyone really believe we are watching good rugby? Can we continue to ignore the fact that world rugby’s wealthiest continent failed to secure a single semi-final berth in last year’s World Cup? Can we continue to ignore the fact that it wasn’t really a one-off?
It’s time we stopped being so understanding. We’re no longer supporters: we’re enablers. We’re now forced to pay vast amounts of money to attend these games, so the least we should expect is a professional show. Theatre types would raze the West End if Ralph Fiennes fluffed his lines or got caught up the curtain, yet we excuse commensurable acts of ineptitude on a weekly basis.
This has to stop.
Easier said than done, of course. But there are a few easy tweaks that would pay immediate dividends. Firstly, let’s bring the points system into the 21st century. It’s so obvious, right? Reward tries. Reward not giving up. Outlaw the sight of a team celebrating a 10-9 win.
And why not go the whole hog and establish relegation and promotion with the European Nations Cup? It’s remarkable that the Six Nations shows such a lack of balls given that the six teams have absolutely nothing to lose. There’s a school of thought that argues that this is precisely the reason why the Six Nations seldom serves up anything but vanilla, so let’s see how they deal with the fear of death.
Georgia stands ready and waiting, and so do we.
Falling just short
Sorry. We’re not through with the Six Nations: one more gripe.
Obviously the less we say about the dire France/Ireland match the better, but we didn’t think the same policy would apply to the tournament’s citing commissioners. France lock Yoann Maestri has walked free after body-checking Jonny Sexton off the ball and out of the game.
The citing commissioner for the game concluded that Maestri had, indeed, infringed the laws of the game … but that his actions fell “just short of” a red card.
Falling just short of a red card? So sort of a really bad yellow card, right? No, apparently not. Unlike Sexton, Maestri won’t miss a second of the action.
We’re just flagging it because this off-the-ball stuff seems to be all the rage, as Italy’s Gonzalo Garcia might agree after his game-ending encounter with England’s Jack Nowell.
Not that the commissioners are interested looking into that, of course. And if they can’t be bothered to watch what’s in front of them, why should we?
Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Andy Jackson