Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

22nd April 2014 10:20

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Tamaz Mchedlidze for Georgia rugby team

Georgia: Worthy of a Six Nations berth?

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of chocolate rabbittings, four-day weekends and frenzied egg-chasings.

This week we will mostly be peeling the colourful foil off tournament revolutions, Japan's spring chickens and the weekly point of law...

'Tis the season, apparently, to be pressing for change. On top of the breakout of peace in Europe this week after months of wrangling and leverage, there are other tournament changes in the air, other voices adding to dissent, others looking for improvement.

Start with the more isolated squalls in the calm, and we have Andrew Mehrtens this week believing that the future of Super Rugby involves lots more Pacific Island and Asia and a lot less South Africa in the equation.

It is hard not to see where Mehrtens is coming from. The time zones and travel make for a wearisome burden on players and finances, and the fresh romance of playing trans-Indian Ocean clashes that used to be so exciting in Super Rugby's first decade has long since worn off - no small part of the reason for reverting to the geographical conferences.

It is also valid to have the debate opened on including teams from the Pacific Islands. Instable those unions can be, but there is a vast well of talent there that is simply being swept up by other countries and will continue to be so while there is no viable, sub-international, professional option for these players to play in. The Pacific Rugby Cup is all very well, but the more franchise 'A' teams it incorporates the more its focus is diluted.

Cutting away South Africa from that would also open the door for South Africa to start sharing a separate competition with teams from Argentina - whose Pampas team is now playing almost 12 hours in time zone from home in the Pacific Rugby Cup.

This is not a proposition that will start any time soon of course. Super Rugby revenue from South Africa is huge and the international players and coaches are reminding of the fact that travelling to play South African teams is a good warm-up for Rugby Championship stuff.

But this is a debate that should be had, especially in the light of European developments this week...


Which developments? Well, the debate has been started, officially, in Europe over how much longer the Six Nations can be ring-fenced.

The statement regarding the establishment of the Rugby Champions' Cup included the following line: "The parties have also agreed to form a working party to discuss and propose the principles of an integration of European competitions within an all-encompassing European rugby framework." Put simply, it means other countries might have a fighting chance of scoring a Six Nations spot down the line, while elite club teams from other countries already have a shot at qualifying for the Rugby Champions' Cup and its underling competitions.

How soon anything will actually change is anyone's guess. Progressive this thinking may be, but Bill Beaumont was quick to remind all how slow the process of change can be as well this week in The Guardian, saying: "Whilst there may be concerns about the playing strength of one or two countries (in the Six Nations), we have played them for more than 100 years and that tradition goes a long way. Is it incumbent on us to find meaningful competitions for tier two countries? We do have a responsibility, but I do not see it currently as being through an expanded Six Nations."

Beaumont has a point, and furthermore you couldn't just suddenly introduce promotion and relegation into the Six Nations, the effects of the lost income on the relegated would be far more catastrophic than the benefits in rugby for the promoted.

But for me, it's just good that the debate has been opened, that rugby's top-tier borders are slowly being opened. Wearing the process may have been, but the long-term benefits of the European Rugby revolution might be further-reaching than anticipated.


Meanwhile, harking back to Mehrtens' comments about possibly including Asian teams as well, Japan's youth team underlined their potential with an outstanding 35-10 victory over Tonga at the Junior World Trophy on Saturday.

Coach Keisuke Sawaki outlined the importance of the feat in one pretty succinct soundbite after the match, saying: "This is a very important victory for our country. This is the next generation of players, the future of Japan rugby and I'm very proud of the boys," said happy Japan coach Keisuke Sawaki.

"As a nation we must now put more focus on this squad as we look ahead to the 2019 Rugby World Cup which will be hosted in Japan."

Don't we all?


Law time... probably not the most controversial of the weekend's incidents, but being as the commentators questioned it and the Bulls did too, I thought I would have a look.

It concerns Kurtley Beale standing in goal, picking up a moving ball and transferring it behind the try-line to touch it down and get a 22 drop-out. Even at the time the commentators were not sure, one saying that it should have been a scrum for carrying it back in, one saying that the fact the ball was moving made a difference, and it is the latter part that is correct.

Law 22.9 is the important one, specifically 22.9.(c), which states: If a player with one or both feet on or behind the goal line picks up the ball, which was in motion within the field of play, that player has picked up the ball within in-goal.

In fact, Law 22.9 is generally a good one to know for solving bar debates, and it is definitely one that does not reward the sort of aimless kicking which marked the Bulls' display in Sydney on Saturday... as long as the opposition knows the rules anyway! Law 22.9 is here:

Loose Pass is written by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

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