Loose Pass

Date published: October 22 2014

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly, diverse assortment of angry rants, muttered curses and pop-eyed attempts at keeping it all in.

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly assortment of angry rants, muttered curses and pop-eyed attempts at keeping it all in.

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Australia’s mess, some European observations and thoughts on how to treat fans right…

It seems not even a win was going to stop Ewen McKenzie from falling on his sword.

The intensity of the game day preparations and those last few player meetings are likely to have brought the clarity he needed as to whether he had the energy to see it through – the answer was no.

His now ex-players delivered a fitting finale, frustratingly close to something special and then letting it slip away on Saturday, and his departure has left the ARU in no less of a mess.

With McKenzie gone, and the masses ready to give the next coach all the support they can muster, observers are turning their frowns and gripes squarely on the ARU, with many believing a head, or many, should also roll there.

The Beale-gate drama is likely to impact on the game’s revenues, already in a parlous state with one recent presentation apparently describing the existing business model as ‘unsustainable’.

There has been a lot of criticism at the way CEO Bill Pulver allowed McKenzie to hire and fire his own staff, but the net number of people in the team structure has shrunk in the interim. McKenzie may have been given a role to oversee his own structure, but he might have been told to do so under instructions to cut costs.

Pulver on Saturday mounted an attack on the media every bit as furious as the media’s has been on the ARU over the past fortnight, lambasting them for their ‘relentless’ attack on McKenzie, but while there has been an element of witch-hunting about the affair, the smoke around the whole issue was so thick that there had to be a fire somewhere.

The media goes on the attack when it knows it has not got the truth – there is still an absence of the complete picture – so Pulver would do well, during the hours after Kurtley Beale’s hearing on Friday at the latest, to perhaps have an honesty meeting with the media of his own, akin to the one McKenzie had with his team last Monday.

Otherwise, you get the feeling that the relentless media may turn their arsenal of not inconsiderable weaponry onto Pulver and the ARU itself. Given the uncertainty, secrecy and disintegration palpable within the last few weeks, you have to wonder at what they might be able to dig up there.

As for the team, they gave an excellent account of themselves on Saturday, despite the defeat. If the new coach, expected to be Michael Cheika, can get together a tour with no disciplinary breaches and a good level of performance and results, not all will be lost.

On a playing level, anyway. But at boardroom level, Australian rugby still needs a lot of straightening out.

Hurray for the return of the Heinek- oops, no, sorry, we can’t call it that any more… erm, well, hurray for the return of European rugby, which needs a name that is less of a mouthful.

The most eyebrow-raising performance of the weekend came from Glasgow, whose demolition job on Bath belies all those column inches spent writing off Scottish rugby.

The second-most eyebrow-raising performance was almost certainly came from George Clancy, whose interpretations at scrum-time had everyone scratching their heads in wonder, while the failure to look harder at the Ma’afu-Kruger incident was extraordinary, as was the decision not to yellow-card the player penalised for an ‘elbow to the face’.

For the rest, it was pretty much business as usual. The French teams playing away lost, the ones at home won. The Italian side is the weak link. Munster won in the last minute. In the Challenge Cup, the French nearly all fielded their weakest teams and mostly got trounced.