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Loose Pass

16th December 2013 09:46

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Shifted out: Gary Gold

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with national team structures, champions of champions and the lukewarm Bath...

Australia's decision to implement a new tournament as of next year is a fantastic one, but it represents a significant risk for the ARU.

A failure of the tournament will be a catastrophe for the game in Aussie - it will be a clear sign that there is no room for expansion of the game at an elite level. Success should come, but it may take time. Does the ARU, cash-strapped enough to have trimmed its senior players' wages this year, have the financial power to see the new compo through its infancy?

The National Rugby Championship will fill the void Australia has at the sub Super Rugby level, meaning the non-Wallaby Super Rugby players now have an interim competition more likely to keep them on their toes than the various club competitions in Australia's large cities ever did.

They will, of course, be bolstered by the crème de la crème of the club sides, good players who now have an extra and more achievable rung on the ladder up to the Super sides or the national side.

More players playing at a higher level, the better players playing continuously at a higher level, a more shapely talent pyramid for the country, a larger pool of players for Super coaches to pick from. It's a fantastic move.

But...

This was tried in 2007 with the Australian Rugby Championship. It ran for one season, producing some excellent rugby.

It also made a financial loss of AU$4.8m. Moreover, it drew the ire of the clubs, who felt their efforts at producing top rugby and top structures were being undermined. Thus damned by spectators, participants and financiers alike, it was canned as a non-workable proposition.

The fact that the ARU had to pay ABC to televise the matches spoke volumes for the success of the commercial side of it all.

It appears the discussions this time did at least go some way to appeasing the concerns of the clubs, whose support for the concept has been lauded. But the fact that there was little in the way of announcement of sponsoring for the new competition has to be a worry as well.

Rugby battles constantly for supremacy against league and AFL for popularity in Australia, frequently coming off third best. Finding someone to try and buck that trend in terms of swaying television viewers is going to be nigh on impossible.

So the onus is on the ARU now as it was then. This tournament will be a success in terms of the rugby alone, but commercially it faces a series of uphill battles, which someone will need to patiently push to the tune of a few million dollars, a few million that person or corporate entity is unlikely to see back.

Failure to find that person or corporate entity will be the death of this tournament and a massive setback for Australian rugby, as it may then be facing the cold truth that there is no more room for commercially viable expansion at the elite level.

We hope it succeeds. On rugby terms alone, it will succeed. Sadly, as those in Europe are currently finding out the hard way, rugby alone is pretty irrelevant when it comes to opinions and methods of making a tournament commercially viable...


Two weeks ago it was all on. Now it's all off again.

There will be no match between Toulon and the Chiefs to discover who is the 'best non-international team' in the world (the Chiefs are not a club).

We are pretty relieved about it. It would have been an over-hyped occasion, played by one team in the midst of an already-murderous schedule against another barely out of pre-season fitness training. In terms of defining who is the best in the world, it would have been about as definitive as the June Tests immediately after the World Cup.

The concept is one we have all considered. But until we get a globally-aligned fixture calendar where all teams play the same season, trying to discover a champions of the hemispheres has got one-off irrelevancy stamped all over it.


We have not heard the last of Gary Gold's exit from Bath.

When someone chucks in his job because of a 'difference of opinion on how to define his role', you know there's been a monumental bust-up.

Gold's colleague Mike Ford, whose assumption of the first team preparation on a day-to-day basis presumably rubbed Gold up the wrong way (not that he is thought to have actively pursued it), added even more to the void of information by saying: "I can't really say anything else at this stage. He's a good friend of mine and it's just regrettable that these things happen."

Differences of opinion, can't really say anythings, sudden exits halfway through a season with Bath lying third... this one has Soap Opera written all over it.

Bath have now lost two Directors of Rugby in the space of about 18 months, both fairly acrimoniously. Something higher up the club looks to be a hugely destabilizing influence. As to what that may be... all may be revealed in the coming days.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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