Loose Pass

Date published: November 5 2014

Welcome to Loose Pass, our assortment of touchdowns, screen passes and decoy routes.

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly assortment of touchdown grabs, screen passes and decoy routes. This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with events in Chicago, events in France and events over the coming month…

They came, they saw they conquered. With a PR effort that was as skilful, clinical and entertaining off the pitch as the All Blacks were on it. There’s not many groups of people who can cause a personnel jam in Chicago’s Union Station, but for a sprinkling of schoolkids and some suitably gobsmacked onlookers, Steve Hansen’s charges managed it, and they made a lot of friends along the way.

On the pitch the result was a formality as soon as Nathan Harris scored the first try. Even then it was evident how well the All Blacks were going to be manoeuvring players into the wide spaces and then making sure the ball got there. It was also evident how much the USA might be able to take away from a good hard look at their defensive effort.

Off the pitch it was great. Social media is flooded with #soldierfield instagrams. Having seen their American football team trailing 45-7 early in the second half the week before, the Chicago faithful found nothing too amiss with the scoreline and boisterously cheered every bit of skill. The American rugby fraternity rejoiced in its moment against the elite, while the players manned up for 80 minutes and took their lessons patiently.

On the screen, the mismatch of culture was wonderful. The NBC commentary – the match was broadcast during prime time, in itself fantastic – did its best, but we did have to cringe at the opening seconds of this highlight reel at the attempt to describe a scrum (an attempt cued up by Craig Joubert awarding a penalty, we might add).

But then we’d have to concede how tough a job it might be to explain rugby’s dynamics on the fly to an audience more used to choosing which break in the action to go for a pee, rather than which empty can to use so you didn’t miss anything… there was no time, which ratcheted up the pressure on our commentator.

Then there was the build-up. Just this interview alone from Ryan Crotty and Victor Vito attempting to explain the mythos of the All Black to an interviewer was enough to know that the Americans knew someone was coming and were determined to like them, even if they didn’t quite know who, exactly it was.

But this trip was a success, part due to the AB PR machine, in part due to the excellent welcome afforded by America and especially the American rugby culture, which looked alive and well around Soldier Field on Saturday. It bodes well for the USA’s future in the game.

And as for the players… well, the Eagles were somewhat forgotten in all the hype. Strange that in a country so good at promoting and hyping along lines of national fervour, that should be so. But you also get the impression that was ok for them, that it somehow gave them a better experience. No massive media intrusion, no demands on their time, just a good hard crack. As Mike Petri put it in the Guardian: “Anyone wondering what the scoreline says about rugby’s potential in this country should take (this) into account: we sold out Soldier Field, we took on the best in the world, and we learned. American rugby can grow from here.”

Another reason American rugby might grow is that you could, on the evidence of the weekend’s action, never imagine any American coach might start talking like this.

Is this not worthy of a fine in itself, never mind what ought to happen to Toulon if they, with all their stocks of players, do decide to press ahead with this asinine threat? It’s such a drag on the game to see this stuff…

Meanwhile up across Herault and Tarn, Rupeni Caucaunibuca has gone missing at Agen again. Plus