Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

15th April 2013 10:28

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Kelly Slater and Adam Ashley Cooper Large

Surf's up: Adam Ashley-Cooper

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with going down, being kept down, downtime and being sold down the river...

London Welsh's brief tenure in the Premiership has finally come to its ignominious end, which really is a shame.

The Exiles have been responsible for some good rugby at times, certainly looking every bit the Premiership outfit at the start of the season. Alas, the old problem of squad depth would come to haunt them.

But nothing will haunt so much as the extraordinary fiasco of Mike Scott and the passport falsification of Tyson Keats, which has seen the Exiles relegated the week before what could have been an all-or-nothing clash against London Irish next week.

The five-point deduction killed the Welsh, there's little doubt. Heads dropped. The uphill struggle against relegation suddenly became cliff-like. The pressure told.

But the ramifications are still being felt and will be for some time. Yesterday key financial backer Kelvin Byron announced he would be withdrawing, in the wake of what he perceived as inadequate support from both Premier Rugby and the RFU both financially and in Scott-gate. Would he be so vociferous had the Exiles been sitting on 23 now and still with a shout of staying up? Would he have pulled out if the Welsh had pulled it off?

Yet with another of his statements he really did have a point.

"I've done a hell of a lot for rugby but there's hardly a Welshman in the side, so what's the point? I think the EQP system is a restraint of trade but the RFU don't seem to worry that clubs like Saracens are South African owned," he said.

Agreed, particularly so when considering when several of those South Africans play for England. But the 'hardly a Welshman in the side' line must be particularly keenly felt among the Exiles' fans and maybe in the Principality too - it could have been a roundabout solution for the WRU to use the Exiles as a place to let regional deserters go to.

Relegation is an ugly time and it takes a tremendous effort to keep a club together. The Exiles will presumably now have to move house again, and will have to focus on recruitment both of new sponsors and players. Fingers crossed they can - the Premiership was a colourful place with them there.

It's tough being a Cypriot most days at the moment. Unsure of when they can get their cash or indeed, unsure how much the EU will have left to them, facing international anger over their perceived tax haven status, and involved in an ugly squabble with some neighbours over a local gas reserve, you could hardly blame the locals for getting involved in a good hard few games of rugby to get the anger out.

Yet it seems that may just be causing even more anger. Despite embarking on a record run of Test victories, the IRB - contrary to its own press release a few months ago - has refused to allow the Cyprus international team a crack at the World Cup on administrative grounds, which appear to add up to little more than not quite sucking up to the IRB enough to be granted exemption like Greece or the UAE were. Read more here

It's tough to know where exactly to stand on this. On the one hand, there needs to be a decent trial period of well-administered calm for the game's governing body to accept a new member. On the other hand, Cyprus clearly have managed to build something quite special in spite of what is going on there right now.

The World Cup is in two years' time, two years by the end of which Cyprus would - assuming they keep the ship steady - be eligible for the membership a tilt that the RWC requires. Would it not be possible for the IRB to allow Cyprus to compete for the World Cup and then - should Cyprus qualify - review their membership efforts and confirm it? And if Cyprus qualify but have not fulfilled the IRB membership criteria, the IRB could just kick them out of the RWC again...and Cyprus might have nobody to blame but themselves in that case, which is significantly better than having their talented team not given a chance by the bureaucrats.

What do you do when you are on a week off? Recover? Bit of conditioning, couple of naughty meals, perhaps a night on the town?

Or, if you are Adam Ashley-Cooper, you head off to the beach, team up with a legend and win a surf competition.

A A-C teamed up with Kelly Slater and two others at Manly Beach to take out the Waratahs Komunity Project Surf Pro Am last Saturday, seeing off the challenge of old dog Phil Waugh in the final of an event organised to raise money for Surfers Against Suicide

Now, if only the Waratahs could finish moves with the same panache on the field...

Finally, the award for fair-weather fans of the week must go to fans of Harlequins, who provoked a press release of ire from Quins' management for selling so many tickets to desperate Munster fans for that Quins' home quarter-final against the Irish that felt more Thomond Park than Twickenham.

"Last Sunday it was obvious from 90 minutes before kick-off that Munster's well organised and wonderful supporters had a presence in the stadium that exceeded the number of tickets officially allocated to them." The colourful and vocal support they gave their talented team during the match provided further evidence of this if it was needed.

"The club is determined to identify any person that sold on his or her ticket and will ensure that last Sunday's outcome is not repeated."

Well, go for it. Considering the generally sombre atmosphere at Quins matches, you'd think one potential measure might be to give them all a few song-sheets and singing lessons.

But then again, perhaps Quins should remember their identity, built as the club is on a tradition of stockbrokers and bankers and other city folk. Perhaps the ability to see gold-dust HEC quarter-final tickets as a sound profit-making investment is just a little more obvious to Quins' traditional fans than others.

You can take the trader out of the city, but...

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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