Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of warm cuppas, mild cocoas and grande quad non-fat, one-pump, no-whip, mochas.
Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of warm cuppas, mild coacoas and grande quad non-fat, one-pump, no-whip, mochas.
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with player PR, franchising effects, a phoenix-like start to a season, and a cracking weekend coming up…
James O'Connor's bizarrely and uniquely tailored contract solution saga goes on – and should not be changing for a while now at least. But boy oh boy was it protracted. And not in any kind of good way.
The oddest part of it all to emerge was the rumour – and I stress, only a rumour – that O'Connor asked for guarantees from the ARU about his being given a fair shot at Wallaby rugby as well as Reds rugby.
That the rumour is believable tells a lot about how O'Connor has been known to conduct himself in the past, but the question of how much something needs to be denied was raised by a colleague during the week.
There are rumours and rumours. There have been rumours of a crisis at Munster this week after supposed player report documents were mistakenly sent to the entire Munster staff, rumours which have been swiftly quashed and the circumstances explained. There are rumours about which town in England will be able to prefix itself to the Wasps in the near future, rumours which the club swiftly clarified.
This rumour about James O'Connor is by some distance the most nasty of them all – no player in any international team should be demanding any form of selection guarantee in any circumstance, it is one of the game's great essences that nobody can have that sort of ego and be accepted – yet nothing was clarified at all beyond the fact he did not ask for any special paragraphs in his contract with the Reds.
Of course, in the case of nothing of the sort having been requested by O'Connor, you can argue that nothing needs to be clarified.
But here is a young player whose career has not exactly been defined by exemplary behaviour, who has not endeared himself to his national fraternity, and who is known for thinking himself somewhat more important than the team he plays for.
He presumably works with agents – anyone who plays for Toulon seems to have a phalanx of them – and they presumably know of the public doubts about him. Would it not have been good to get these rumours denied? Or has this particular leopard not changed as many spots as we might have hoped?
On to Wasps. They might move to Coventry. They might, according to their PR department, move somewhere else as well. But the point is, they are likely to move, and few of the mooted possible destinations are closer to their long-time Sudbury base in Middlesex.
They would not be the only rugby team to have shifted location to find a permanent home in recent years, but there is little denying that those clubs who are leading such a 'nomadic' existence are the ones who find it harder to create and maintain the fevered advantageous home atmosphere found in the south of France and West of England.
London Irish do a great job of matchday experience, but having one side only of the Madejski full is not intimidating to visitors, nor awe-inspiring to the neutral.
Furthermore, how might Coventry RFC appreciate the move (if it is there)? They are no shrinking violets in their own league – two levels below Premiership – yet now find themselves potentially superseded by rich neighbours moving in.
Deals can be struck, but it would take the gloss off Coventry's standing in the community somewhat to find themselves no longer the big team in the area.
You can appreciate Wasps' need to move and find a more suitable home, but surely it should be closer to their traditional home rather than further away?
Given the number of times we have slammed them down the months and years, it's probably worth doffing cap to the chaps who are bringing the right stuff through at Western Province.
The Cape is no stranger to maverick running talents, yet has had a tradition over the past two or three years for dumbing such talents down at the expense of rigid territorial playing structures.
This year's Currie Cup side is once again full of emergent talent, but it seems to have been given more licence to shine, something that, given the excellence displayed by the Capetonian backs on Saturday at Loftus and the distinctly stale look to the Super Rugby side, may prove to be just the sort of tonic the Super Rugby side – and maybe even the national side – needs?
This is my second-favourite time of year, following from the April weekends that bring Super Rugby and Heineken Cup knockout rounds.
The weekend is being planned thus: Friday night is Western province v Eastern Province, followed by Northampton v Gloucester or Montpellier v Castres and backed up by the Celtic League highlights.
Saturday will kick off in New Zealand with Taranaki v Southland, followed by the All Blacks taking on Argentina, then a trip to my own club for a match in the early afternoon, back later for Irish v Quins and back that up with Glasgow v Leinster, Stade Francais v Bayonne and Toulon v Bordeaux. Sunday will be seen in with another ITM Cup match, before I head back to England for Piri Weepu's debut for London Welsh v Exeter and Cardiff's trip to the Zebre.
Life is good.
Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens