Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

12th November 2012 08:30

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Fiji doing the Cibi

Hot topic: Fiji

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the price of a cap, the north-south divide, a curious affair and some really, really bad singing...

So how much is a cap really worth? We've mentioned that a couple of times down the years, in terms of players cutting short international careers to head for the northern pensions, in terms of players sacrificing any chance of being an international whatsoever, or in terms of eschewing chances to play for their native land and opt to stay three years in another and have a stab there instead.

All prices to pay. But if the allegations from Fiji - and they've not been shy of a couple of iffy bow shots in the past - about Racing Metro are proven correct, we really might know the price of a cap. We'll also know how far some can be prepared to go. And how low.

Pacific Islanders do not have it easy. They're brought up in a very different rugby culture, where the hits are diamond-hard and borderline legal in other countries. Frequently huge specimens of men, frequently blessed with extraordinary pace, just as frequently from backgrounds and customs about as far removed from the Western norm as you could get, dozens are yanked every year from their island homes and dropped into Europe's unique cultural hurly-burly.

The culture shock is huge. Many simply do not understand it, some do not survive and end up falling foul of either drink or violence. Sometimes both. Others just fade away. And, obviously, others make it big and survive the challenges.

But for all of them, European rugby, the easy path to a European visa and a higher playing standard profile, is a huge cost in terms of personal administration and ambition, for they know full well that their home unions may not be able to pay for them to be internationals every time.

The allegation laid that Racing Metro actively paid for their Fijians to stay and play club rather than represent their brethren is a deeply insidious one. It's one that smacks of clubs paying no heed to the people they are employing, rather one of a deeply rotten ethic that champions the home-grown talents and circumnavigates the protections afforded to those from lesser backgrounds. It's one that ultimately tells people to put up and shut up and to hell with what you might want, not an ethic we'd like to see in professional rugby.

There may be an axe to grind for Simon Mannix, who was fired from the Paris club recently. But Nicky Little's revelations that this practice of paying Fijians to miss international duty is not a new one is worth taking seriously. If it proven, it is worth throwing the book at too, for the good of international rugby.


Plus ša change... With Argentina's win over Wales at the weekend comes the final step in global recognition for the Pumas.

More than that though, it's the clearest of all indicators as to how far the Pumas have come. One season in the Rugby Championship and some good time spent honing skills under the auspices of several All Black coaches has rendered a comparatively youthful Argentina side at least on a playing par with the one that got to third in the world in 2007.

New Zealand cruising to victory over Scotland, an under-strength South Africa triumphant in Ireland... only Australia's woes and France's new-found confidence remain as the bridge over the divide between north and south.

It's been a great weekend of international rugby and there's plenty more to come, but there's a lot of work to do up north.


So where is John Mitchell going to be in a few weeks' time?

He's professed his determination to finish off a job in Johannesburg, having been cleared of all misconduct charges at the Lions.

But nobody knows what went on. The leaders of the group of players who took their grievances over Mitchell's management to the GLRU executive board are all but gone. The Lions themselves sit with an empty fixture list for much of next year, their place in Super Rugby gone to the Kings.

Rumour has it that the Lions simply couldn't afford the payout that sacking Mitchell would have caused on the back of losing the disciplinary hearing, to which it was rumoured only two players actually turned up and gave half-hearted evidence.

This would leave the GLRU board on a hiding to nothing and Mitchell in a position of absolute power - not least perhaps to bring back Carlos Spencer and Wayne Taylor, Mitchell's assistants who were unceremoniously axed in the wake of the allegations brought against Mitchell.

Mitchell may have what he wants, or he may simply be waiting for that payout before actually going to Sale. But whatever is going on, it looks appalling for the Johannesburg team. Unless the mess is cleaned up, the Kings might get their second Super Rugby year after all.


Remember Waddle and Hoddle's 'Diamond Lights'? Gazza's 'Fog on the Tyne'? Liverpool's 'Anfield Rap'?

It seems Saracens have fallen foul of the same delusion that pop stardom and team songs are a happy couple...check it out.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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