Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

14th January 2013 06:03

Share:

Heineken Cup trophy 2011

Key week: Heineken Cup

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a rising star, maths, and passports and visas...

The trials and troubles of Welsh rugby have been well-documented over the past month or two, but there is a silver lining. His name is Eli Walker.

Is it overstating a bit to claim Walker might be the most exciting winger since Rupeni Caucaunibuca announced his presence on the sub-international stage?

Walker is blessed with all the pace of his peers and then some. A distinctively bow-legged stance makes him extraordinarily difficult to tackle, widening his stance against opposing shoulders and effectively lowering his centre of gravity. His upper body is prop-like in width if not girth.

He has a knack for carving up defences, ghosting past defenders with a step so subtle that it's hard to see out of slow-motion replays. Defenders frequently barely lay a finger on him.

Only a lack of outrageous skill separates him from everyone's favourite Fijian - not yet have we seen an ability to pick up the ball one-handed in full flight - while in terms of awareness he still needs to learn. After a scintillating 50 metre run against the Tigers on Sunday, he should have offloaded outside for Jonathan Spratt rather than take the ruck and wait for Kahn Fotuali'i to fling a fantastic pass.

But those are details that can be worked on. A magnificent natural talent is blossoming on the Welsh wing, making a trio of Alex Cuthbert, George North and Walker from which selection for the Six Nations teams is going to be fiendishly difficult. Wales have their woes, but if they can shift the ball there is life in the Dragons yet.


Heineken Cup January time! You know that time? That's the time at which everybody maintaining a serious interest in the tournament gathers round the tables and final fixture lists and works out all the permutations or tries to predict if their side will make it, even with the fillip of a home quarter-final.

As ever, we strive to be the first to paint the clearest picture, and have peered through the equations, done the arithmetic, factored in the quotients and worn down the algebra. This is what we came up with...

Definitely out

Edinburgh, Ospreys, Treviso, Connacht, Zebre, Glasgow, Exeter, Scarlets, Sale, Cardiff.

Saracens - Need a win at home to Edinburgh, a bonus point (tries? yeah, right) would highly likely be enough to get them a home quarter-final. Predicted points finish: 23

Munster - Probably won't catch Sarries unless there's a major upset, but a win at home to Racing Metro ought to see them through as best runners-up. Predicted points finish: 19

Racing Metro - Need a bonus point win at Munster and for Leicester, Biarritz, Northampton and Leinster all to lose (Leicester without a bonus point) to even dream of a second-placed finish. Predicted points finish: 12

Toulouse - Need a win away at Leicester. Predicted points finish: 19

Leicester - Need a win against Toulouse, which even then would only see them travel in the quarters. Predicted points finish: 20

Harlequins - A home quarter-final awaits, irrespective of what happens in Biarritz. Predicted points finish: 25

Biarritz - A bonus point win at home to Harlequins and any four of Leicester, Racing Metro, Munster, Northampton, Montpellier and Leinster losing sees them through. Predicted points finish: 18

Ulster - A win away at Castres will probably be enough to get them to Ravenhill in the quarters, a bonus point win definitely would. Defeat, not unthinkable, would leave them sweating, but even a single bonus point would be enough. Predicted points finish: 23

Northampton - a bonus point win and a pointless defeat by Castres, or any four of Leicester, Racing Metro, Munster, Biarritz, Montpellier and Leinster losing sees them through by the skin of their teeth. Predicted points finish: 19

Castres - A bonus point win at home to Ulster and defeat for any five of Leicester, Racing Metro, Munster, Biarritz, Montpellier and Leinster... about the same chance of making it as a pot plant in a tornado. Predicted points finish: 14

Clermont - The Marcel Michelin awaits someone. Even defeat at the Scarlets would not harm their chance of a home quarter, although a bonus point-less defeat would leave things edgy. Like that's going to happen. Predicted points finish: 27

Leinster - A bonus point win leaves them in a possible fight for a best runners-up spot, but they also need favours in the form of defeats elsewhere. Predicted points finish: 19

Toulon - A win gives them a fearsome home quarter, defeat to Montpellier will only damage their prospects of that, not of overall qualification. They are through, just need the win to seal the deal. Predicted points finish 27

Montpellier - A win over Toulon of any form would be enough to see them through as the best runner-up. Defeat leaves them needing any four of Leicester, Racing Metro, Munster, Biarritz and Leinster to lose too. Predicted points finish: 18

Predicted quarter-final line-up

Clermont v Toulouse
Toulon v Munster
Harlequins v Leicester
Ulster v Saracens

Oh yes! Bring that lot on!

But.... three English, three French, two Irish... and the English and French are complaining they don't get a fair deal out of the HEC???


We've long been advocates of a principle being introduced whereby to be valid to play for a country you ought to be a passport-holder... or at least eligible for such.

So the situation involving Hendre Fourie is a deeply regrettable one, a real illustration of the fantasy nationality that the current IRB eligibility rules can create. The time for change is nigh.

Significantly more sympathy was garnered this end for the plight of Cardiff Blues fly-half Jason Tovey, whose labrador puppy Buster's attempt to render his passport edible cost Tovey his place on the pitch in the Stade Felix Mayol this weekend!

Tovey was in the process of packing his stuff, when he happened upon Buster happily chewing away and having already ingested a good chunk of the docs. It did not take long for a Blues spokesman to reveal the extent of the disciplinary proceedings against Tovey as a result of his schoolboy excuse.

"He's in the doghouse" read a statement...

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00