Loose Pass

Date published: July 5 2016

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This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with optimism, Chris Masoe, play acting and Gareth Bale.

Keep calm and carry on

Europe is hardly awash with optimism at the moment, but there is cause to be hopeful for the future – you just need to strip out everything bar rugby. 

Loose Pass thought the longest season in history would end with an almighty whimper. How wrong we were! For the first time ever, the Six Nations contenders more then held their own on tour. 

Yes, we are actually including Wales in this – there were signs of progress, and British and Irish Lions sides have fared worse in the land of the long white cloud. 

And yes, we are including France in this – they somehow managed to peel themselves off the stretcher to nil Argentina in Argentina. No mean feat. That's spirit on which proper foundation could be built – if only the French Rugby Federation would have the guts to get digging.

And so suddenly here we are: hearts racing as we contemplate the return fixtures in November. They represent a chance to rectify some of the damage wrought by the woeful absenteeism displayed by Europe's finest during the final fortnight of RWC 2015.

And beyond that, we can look forward to a domestic season unencumbered by the demands of a World Cup. We can only pray that the Irish provinces and Welsh regions get their houses in order. If they do (and early signs are good), we're in for a cracking Champions Cup.

Have you seen the state of the draw? Saracens and Toulon grouped together! Leicester and Munster grouped together! Toulouse and Wasps grouped together! Five pools of suffocating death! 

And amidst it all, the opportunity for England to chase down the first back-to-back Grand Slam in Six Nations history, and a chance for all the Home Unions players to press for a bite at the sumptuous cherry sat atop the entire feast: the Lions tour of New Zealand.

Bring it on! 

Class act

Yet another cause for European optimism came in the shape of the Top 14 final, played upon perhaps the most hallowed stretch of turf on the planet: Barcelona's Camp Nou. 

A record 99,124 fans were present for a moment in rugby history as Racing 92 weathered an early red card to topple mighty Toulon. 

Dan Carter stole the headlines, but the day really belonged to the one-year-old girl that a tearful Chris Masoe held to his chest as he collected his winner's medal. 

The special guest was Ayla Collins – daughter of Jerry Collins, the legendary All Black who died, along with his partner Alana Madill, in a car crash in June 2015. 

Little Ayla survive the crash, with Masoe and his wife helping to care for her as she went through weeks of intensive care.

More than a big man with a big heart, Masoe is a class act and the very embodiment of the family values that underpin our game. Ayla is in exceedingly good hands.

And the Oscar goes to…

World Rugby recently snuck a new law into the book. It concerns 'play acting' and reads: "Any player who dives or feigns injury in an effort to influence the match officials will be liable for sanction."

It seems sad that we need this enshrined in law. Indeed, World Rugby's wider explanation gives one cause to shudder: "Previously, such offences were covered under the laws covering general acts contrary to good sportsmanship."

But 'simulation' has crept into the game (obviously in place of 'good sportsmanship') and it does need to be stamped out. Our only concern is how a referee is supposed to ascertain whether a squeal is derived from real pain or just amateur dramatics. 

Are we to be subjected to whole new swathes of slow-motion replays? 

Tough gig

Spare a thought for Mark Killingley for it is he who has been named Head of Digital at the Welsh Rugby Union. The new role has been created to act as something of a bulwark against the growing popularity of soccer in the principality, with Killingley tasked to draw the attention of the nation's youth away from Gareth Bale and back towards the oval ball. 

Given the Welsh run at the Euros, Killingley certainly has his work cut out. How much easier the same job would be over in England where the sheer toothlessness of 'The Three Lions' (Grrrr!) is matched only by the new-found brilliance of the men who wear the rose. You'd probably just need to tweet '#iceland' and knock off for the day. 

But Twickenham is probably off the cards for poor Killingley. You see he was Head of Digital at the RFU, doing all that weirdly ominous '#carrythemhome' stuff during the World Cup. He handed in his notice just before the Six Nations and joined Wales just before the June Tests. How's that the timing? #d'oh!

Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson

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