Loose Pass

Date published: June 3 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Huget's horrow show, the American dream and a smiling Fiji assassin.

Huget horror show

French rugby's reputation for the delightfully unpredictable may have suffered somewhat under current national coach Philippe Saint-Andre but events in the last few days appear to show they still have the capacity to stun.

You cannot have failed to miss Toulouse's Yoann Huget stamping on Bordeaux-Begles' Jandré Marais during their recent Top 14 clash with the clip of the incident having gone viral on a tidal wave of outrage.

It makes for horrific viewing but somehow the France international has avoided a citing and was part of the Toulouse side that kept their Top 14 title hopes alive with victory over Oyonnax this past weekend.

The lack of a citing suggests officials viewed the incident as an unfortunate accident but it is difficult to believe given the venom with which Huget's boot lands on his rival.

Marais may have momentarily held his opponent's standing leg to frustrate Huget but that hardly warranted the stomach-churning backlash he received as a result.

Huget's apparent immediate remorse may support claims it was an accident but it still does not excuse what was a reckless act that should be punished accordingly with a significant ban.

Coming to America

It appears the Aviva Premiership is set to break new ground with the staging of a game overseas next season.

It is understood that London Irish are poised to take their traditional St Patrick's Day game to New York as part of a three-year deal between Premiership Rugby and USA Rugby designed to boost the profile of the sport on both sides of the Atlantic.

Super Rugby has of course already ventured down this route, although in slightly different circumstances, with the Crusaders tackling the Sharks at Twickenham back in 2011 in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

A crowd of 35,000 – drawing largely on London's sizeable ex-pat community – were lured to HQ that day and Irish will no doubt hope to tap into the Irish-American community for the New York fixture but talk of an 80,000-plus sell out at a venue like MetLife Stadium appears a bit fanciful.

It is all very exciting but what about the Exiles' fans? Crowds were once again disappointing at Irish's 24,000-seater Madejski Stadium home this season with the attendance exceeding 8,000 just four times in the league this season – including the hugely popular St Patrick's Day game.

The bench-setting All Blacks piqued interest within a sporting-mad US public, as illustrated by the huge crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field for last November's game against the Eagles, but London Irish and whoever their scheduled opposition will not be such an easy sell.

Would the money and effort not be better spent in attracting new fans on the Premiership Rugby's doorstep who will continue to support the team long after the proposed game in New York?

The Premiership Final may continue to attract the masses to Twickenham but that is not reflected week in, week out at many Premiership grounds where the sport does not appear to matter enough to enough people to keep the turnstiles spinning.

Those fans who regularly rattle around the Madejski and are treated to an under-performing side are 'rewarded' with the chance to fork out for what will not be a cheap jaunt across the Pond.

But with Saracens and Leicester also heading Stateside in the off-season, and more regular season games also poised to be switched, it is something fans should get used to – or at least start saving for.

Scots finally have something to shout about

Just a couple of months ago Scottish rugby had hit rock bottom – again – with another Wooden Spoon in the Six Nations.

But suddenly there is hope – again – with a Glasgow Warriors, featuring a wealth of home-grown talent, becoming the first Scottish side to taste success in the PRO12 with a dominant 31-13 victory over Irish rivals Munster.

Coach Gregor Townsend deserves huge credit not just for orchestrating their successful assault on the title but the free-flowing, adventurous and entertaining manner in which they ended a 20-year wait for significant silverware.

It was an outstanding performance from the Warriors side as a whole but it was no surprise to see giant Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa take the Man of the Match honour for a power-packed game punctuated by two sublime assists.

His beaming smile post-game was equally delightful but the joy may not be so evident on England coach Stuart Lancaster's face with his side set to face Fiji in their World Cup opener.

Hammer blow for Hartley

Dylan Hartley's latest career-wrecking moment of madness may not have surprised many but England's willingness to jettison arguably their first choice hooker from their Rugby World Cup plans certainly did.

Lancaster insists his hand was forced by the fact that Hartley's suspension ruled him out of England's opener which in turn meant that an injury to another of the hookers would have left him a key man short come kick off against Fiji.

But the question is whether Lancaster's impressive stance on discipline both on and off the field would have led to the same decision had Hartley's suspension left him in the equation for the World Cup opener?

Hartley's apparent inability to learn from his previous mistakes and the fact that his latest ban took him to a grand total of 54 weeks for his career may have made Lancaster's decision a little easier with England's strength in depth sealing his fate.

Sympathy for Hartley is matched by frustration at his idiotic actions that have now denied him two possible career highlights in the form of the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia and now a Rugby World Cup.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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