Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

16th July 2013 06:11

Share:

George Smith injury Australia v Lions 3rd Test

Worrying: Concussion tests

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Australia's future, fallen stars, concussions and bizarre outbursts...

The baton is passed. Ewen McKenzie will finally get the shot he has unashamedly publicly been craving at restoring the Wallabies' pride.

Robbie Deans shuffles off with a big black and blue bruise to his ego; one of the most interesting sub-plots to the aftermath of the Wallabies' Lions defeat is where Deans might end up next. Smart bucks have been placed on a few months tending to the garden, followed by a trip to Clermont-Ferrand...

Anyway, back to McKenzie, for his is the more pressing occurrence. Firstly, he will reinstate Quade Cooper. Secondly, he will doubtless spend a good deal of time shoring up the Australian scrum. Thirdly, he may opt to sit down with a choice few personnel (and here we also touch on the fallen stars) including the likes of Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Cooper and lay down a few ground rules.

There is little doubt McKenzie has been very good for Cooper. The fly-half might not be quite as explosive and wild as of old - ACL injuries will do that to you - but McKenzie appears to have at least added a measuring edge to Cooper's game, a balance ensuring Cooper reads the game better and chooses his moments a little more.

Off the pitch, Cooper is better behaved now too. Clearly being older helps, but this is a young man who was looking at oblivion a couple of years ago, who is now either significantly improved off the field or a lot better at keeping it out of the limelight. Whether McKenzie used his likely accession to the Wallabies post as motivation for the ostracised Cooper or not may never be revealed, but it's tough not to perceive that McKenzie would have said: "be patient, our time will come" as motivation to Cooper many times over the past few months. How their relationship is perceived by others in the camp could be quite important for McKenzie's initial reception by the squad.

So Cooper has been patient, but now he is set to enter the camp once more, a camp he described as 'toxic' before Deans cut him loose completely. What exactly was toxic was tough to speculate on at the time, but in hindsight that could easily have started with O'Connor and Beale: the latter in counselling to get over his alcohol problems and now without a team, the former such a playboy that no team wants him in it, not even when he is one of the best in the country.

Rampant super-egos, wafery front rows, controversial figures and only a month to get the squad in shape for the toughest international tournament in the world. No wonder Deans got tired.

McKenzie has coveted this job so hard that it has been undermining at times for Deans, merely shameless at others. Now he gets his go. He had better live up to his promises - it's a huge job.


One of the names unlikely to be on McKenzie's list any time soon is that of George Smith, who has called time on his Test career once again after adding another three caps to take his tally to 111.

His last appearance in a Wallaby jersey this time was nowhere near the level of his last last appearance, mainly because he was a thorough mess after bashing bonces with Richard Hibbard early on.

"It obviously affected me. You saw me snake dancing off the field. I passed the (concussion) tests that were required within those five minutes and I got out there," he said.

What on earth are those concussion tests then? Smith could neither walk nor see straight as he left the fray. There are bangs on the head which daze for a few seconds and there are hammer blows that make your brain bleed. Smith's was quite obviously the latter. Isn't there a common sense concussion test that states: 'if the subject, one minute after the blow, is walking as though he has sunk a gallon of mead, it is potentially medically unwise to allow him back into the midst of an elite level contact sport'.

Even the NFL is beginning to wake up to the effects of repeated or untreated concussions and is preparing some significantly more stringent sideline tests - this is in a sport where they still argue that helmet-to-helmet hitting ought not to be outlawed.

In an age of medical enlightenment and where supposedly no dollar is spared in ensuring player welfare, to allow a player back onto the field in that state is verging on criminally negligent. Concussion tests need re-thinking, and fast.


Finally, what could it be that gave you a mediocre season in which you felt unable to match the best? Could it be the ageing senior members of the playing squad? An out-of-form fly-half? Injuries? Dull tactical choices which nullified your attacking threats from anything other than kicks? perhaps even the improved quality of the opposition?

Well no, not if your are the Stormers coach. Apparently, if you finish mid-table, it is because the fixture list is just a little bit too hard.

"I've seen a provisional fixture list for next season and on tour we have the Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies and Reds, which is crazy. We're definitely going to lodge a complaint about it," said Allister Coetzee after the Stormers slumped to seventh overall this year.

What a load of cobblers. If you are the best team, or aim to be the best team, it will not matter who you play because you will beat them anyway. What is supposed to happen - a round robin against all the easy teams and then home fixtures during the play-offs just for your convenience?

The Kings made a similar statement at the start of this season, which sounded like pre-emptive mitigation for finishing bottom of the table. You can blame inexperience for that. But for an established play-off contender like the Stormers/Coetzee to bemoan a tough fixture list for failure is pathetic.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs Bayonne18:30
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs SharksPumas vs Sharks Preview
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western Province17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Preview
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay14:35
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs Waikato19:35
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
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
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00