Loose Pass

Date published: September 3 2013


This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with defining world champions, intriguing appointments, suspensions and Cockers' comments on the scrum…

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with defining world champions, intriguing appointments, suspensions and Cockers' comments on the scrum…

The chaps at French publication Midi-Olympique are well-known for their ability to turn a juicy unfounded rumour into a headline story, so we're still sprinkling a pinch of salt over the proposed February 2nd clash between Heineken Cup champions Toulon and the Chiefs.

The concept is flawed on every level. The date is likely to be the weekend before the Six Nations, meaning Toulon's French internationals – admittedly not many – will be subject to the usual clownish row over club v country – we all know Mourad Boujellal's general attitude to such things. That kind of rubbish is going to do nobody any good, least of all the players.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs would have headed north across equator and time zones for what would be their first competitive hit-up of the season and with any All Blacks who headed on the end-of-year tour still shaking off the off-season cobwebs. The big names you would see, the best of the Chiefs you would not.

While we have no global calendar – Pierre Spies was the latest voice joining the chorus for that this week – there is no chance of any kind of world club championship play-off that exhibits anything like the requisite level of competition integrity. Moreover, isn't the current general principle to reduce the number of games rugby players play, rather than increase them?

This is folly, plain and simple. Keep the idea in mind and use it as motivation for the global calendar, but please do not clutter up the current one even more.

Eyebrows all over our offices shot up this week when Josh Lewsey was appointed Head of Rugby at the WRU. An Englishman? In charge of Wales rugby? Many a Welsh farmer was found making sure his pigsty was still full on Friday (even if Lewsey's mother is from Cwmllynfell.)

Once they've got over the whole 'fraternizing with the enemy' attitude though, the Welsh public ought soon to know how shrewd an appointment this is.

Not only do the Welsh now have a consummate professional in one of their most important roles – and one who has a good track record of working with Warren Gatland – they have someone who is absolutely focused on the importance of sports in communities, a subject he extolled at great length in his autobiography. In a country where community is paramount, this has to be a good fit.

When the Welsh leadership falls out among itself, it's rarely the foreigners brought in to administrate who are the problem. More often than not it is the local powerbrokers who have worked their way up before attempting to instigate a more personal agenda or who find themselves undermined by some historical vendetta.

Bringing in another 'foreigner' to one of Welsh rugby's most important positions ought to prove as unifying a neutral force for the national rugby community as Gatland has proved for the national side. This is some of the best news Welsh rugby has had in a long time.

An interesting little snippet from the suspension of Leonardo Senatore on Thursday: “…it was determined that a seven-match suspension was appropriate in the circumstances. Bearing in mind the player's playing schedule, he will miss four Test matches in the Rugby Championship and three games for Worcester Warriors. Accordingly the player was suspended for nine weeks up to and including 27 October 2013.”

We have long noted that suspending players for x number of weeks is rarely consistent in its effect, not least because of the phase of the season, the tournaments that run into each other or looming international calendars (which have long played a patently obvious role in some decidedly short suspensions for international players). The ruling on this case shows that the IRB have indeed woken up and are now looking at how much effective playing time a player misses rather than its own archaic system of sentencing weights and measures.

Hallelujah. But then… why not just say it as it is? Senatore will be suspended for seven competitive matches. Full-stop. Why does it need to be weeks as well – or is that mess of a fixture calendar likely to cause ambiguity? Now, a global fixture calendar…

He couldn't keep it shut for long. Richard Cockerill had an amusing steam-blowing session this week on the new scrum laws, saying: “The teams engage and have to hold off pushing until the ref tells the scrum-half it's OK to put the ball in, and to put it in straight. After 15 years of ignoring it, that's ridiculous. You're exchanging one mess for another mess.”

So… Cockerill would rather have the scrums shove before the ball is in, rather have the ball in crooked…

The problem is that it has been ignored for 15 years. But at least we are now doing something about it. Old school tricks have been seen through. What will now test Cockerill's mettle properly is to come up with some new tricks to ensure Leicester win all their scrums… and we'd wager those new tricks would not include ranting to the media. Just saying.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson