Loose Pass

Date published: November 29 2016

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the rash of cards and a spot of Six Nations tea-leaf reading…

An appeal for fuller sentencing

It could have been remembered for being the weekend when all four SH teams were defeated in the north. If only France could have found their finishing against the All Blacks.

But we can still say we were only six points away from a ‘southwash’, with Wales beating a shambolic South Africa, England downing the tired Pumas and Ireland completing their own unique treble of knocking off the Boks, the ABs and the Wallabies in one year.

Instead though, it might be remembered for being, in terms of the cards waved above referees’ heads, the most colourful weekend of rugby in a long time. No fewer than 16 players saw various shades of yellow and red across the top seven matches. Those who saw the Samoa-Canada game will be cognizant of the fact it could well have been 18 or 19.

Some of them were just for being offside. But Elliot Daly’s scything mid-air tackle, Peceli Yato’s head-high shoulder, Enrique Pieretto’s stamp and Dean Mumm’s tip tackle were all examples of a weekend that threatened to do that most soccerish of things: bring the game into disrepute.

It’s so strange that all this violence should come at a time when the game’s governing body continues to issue a plethora of soundbites about making the game safer and nicer. One last hurrah before the prohibition kicks in perhaps?  Or was it just an indication – as the results were – that rugby at the top level has suddenly become a great deal more competitive?

Whatever it was, it was strange. And given those soundbites about crimes and punishments, now is hardly the time to be indifferent to an appearance before the disciplinary. But let’s also hope it was isolated. The amount of time we all spent watching various angles of gruesome replays on big screens, while the players we had come to watch hung about moodily sipping energy drinks, was a little too much.

If World Rugby really wanted to get pro-active about all this and make sure that the game did sort itself out though, a good, hard session of book-throwing by the judiciary would not go amiss. The days where players can get a two-week reduction off what should be a month-long ban by saying ‘Sowwwweee’ and putting on a particularly dapper suit need to be gone.

If there’s mitigation in the contact situation because of how bodies move, then so be it. But once a deed is done it is done. Being a nice bloke about it afterwards can’t be a factor in sentencing any more.

PG Wodehouse once said of rugby: “I know that the main scheme is to work the ball down the field somehow and deposit it over the line at the other end and that, in order to squalch this programme, each side is allowed to put in a certain amount of assault and battery and do things to its fellowman which, if done elsewhere, would result in fourteen days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench.”

It’s the ‘without the option’ bit we need.

The most open 6N ever?

Looking up and down all the matches, performances and results from the past month, the Six Nations is set to be a zinger in 2017.

Assuming England beat the Wallabies on Saturday, Eddie Jones could quite conceivably kick on his reign by leading England to 19 wins in a row, with the 19th of those wins occurring in a jam-packed Aviva Stadium in Dublin as England take the Grand Slam for the second consecutive year.

Ireland fans will of course already be seething at the mere suggestion – after all, any team that can play like that to beat the All Blacks and then survive against Australia with most of its team walking wounded is not likely to bottle it at home to England. Or home or away to anyone else actually.

Italy aren’t pushovers any more. Whatever South Africa’s travails, you don’t beat the Boks by being indifferent. Nor, I am being told indignantly by the Scots to my left, do you so comprehensively negate Georgia and beat Argentina by being merely ‘a bit improved’ on last year.

France may not have beaten New Zealand in points, but they shortened the victory margin within a year from 49 points to five, and perhaps most tellingly, they won the statistic for line breaks 17-6. Imagine what happens when they actually gel.

Which leaves Wales. Who did win three out of four this November. They may have looked a little wooden, but they’ve not forgotten the art of winning.

Roll on February!

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

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