This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with Munster, Michael Cheika, Sam Burgess and random TMO interjections.
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They say the harder you work, the luckier you get. It’s irrefutably true, of course.
But the old maxim doesn’t quite sum up the success of the all-conquering All Blacks. Quite the contrary, actually. Luck seeks them out during the very moments in which they look less than their diligent selves.
Before we continue down this path, Loose Pass would like to disassociate itself from those swivel-eyed loons who believe that world rugby has been rigged in favour of New Zealand since 2008. There is no conspiracy. Period.
But, to put it as delicately as humanly possible, the All Blacks do tend to get the rub of the green more often than most.
Yes, we’re going to talk about the latest ‘rub’: that non-try from Australia wing Henry Speight on Saturday. Or rather, we’re going to talk about Shaun Veldsman after the TMO choose to flag Dane Haylett-Petty for impeding the back-tracking Julian Savea.
We’ve no real beef with the call. Until the letter of the law – Law 10.1 (c), to be exact – Haylett-Petty probably did “intentionally move or stand in a position that prevents an opponent from tackling a ball-carrier”.
But review the phase of play that preceded any try ever scored (and the TMO’s official jurisdiction extends all the way back to the last restart of play) and you’ll find something as innocuous as what befell Savea. Heck, scroll the footage back just two seconds and you’ll see Savea appearing to impede Haylett-Petty; scroll back one second and you’ll see Kieran Read doing the exact same!
And then please scroll forward eight minutes. Here you will see Scott Sio’s attempt to smother a hack-through go awry after his heel appears to clip Aaron Cruden’s foot. Sio crumbles to the floor as Savea swoops into view to collect the ball and his first try of the night.
But we didn’t hear from Veldsman again until late in the match when, almost ludicrously, he attempted to convince referee Nigel Owens that a pass disowned as forward by its actually progenitor was, in fact, totally legit!
But Veldsman is merely human. Like many on the actual pitch, he’s guilty only of having an off-day. Perhaps, at worst, and like the rest of us, the brilliance of the All Blacks blinds him to their odd missteps. Plus, he doesn’t get out much these days, and we mean that literally: he no longer refs at this level – he’s exclusively the man upstairs.
All that said, his lop-sided interjections continue to sit rather awkwardly in the ear.
World Rugby would be best advised to launch a review of those who review the reviews, for Veldsman’s performance is only the latest to cause great consternation.
For our money, TMOs should speak only when spoken to. This, at least, would help silence the conspiracy theorists.
Send in the boot
It would be interesting to hear Michael Cheika’s take on all of the above, but it ain’t going to happen.
“I can’t say anything because they’ve got you by the throat,” he said, rather alarmingly, during the post-match proceedings.
But he did have a lot to say about his depiction as a clown on the front page of Saturday’s New Zealand Herald. In summary, he hated it. Really hated it.
And that was before we heard from the cartoonist himself.
Roy Emmerson said: “Cheika may be p*ssed at the artwork, but he’ll be even more p*ssed when he realises I am Australian, and that his cousin dated my sister.”
And so it seems not even death can restrain the great Anthony Foley, for he was surely present at Thomond Park on Saturday, a heavenly 16th man shunting the Red Army ever onward. May he remain there – “shoulder to arse” as he would say – for all time.
Priced at a lowly 66/1 to win the European Champions Cup, Munster channelled the spirit of their fallen leader to record an emphatic victory over high-flying Glasgow.
Given the abhorrent circumstances, the result will come to be seen as one of the province’s proudest moments – and there have been many.
And who would now bet against them from reclaim the prize that Foley held aloft in 2006?
No, Munster aren’t the force they once were. But underestimate their drive at your peril.
Unwelcome though it is, they now have a mission commensurate with their collective character: they are sure to make Axel proud.
Sam’s the man
And finally, here’s a little something from the mouth of one of our readers’ favourite sons: Sam Burgess.
According to England’s new Rugby League captain, his career in Union was not a failure and that “a couple of newspaper articles swayed a whole nation’s opinion”.
Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson