Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

23rd September 2013 10:59

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loose pass Monty Python The Life of Brian

Who is in charge here...?

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Europe's mess, James O'Connor, the Kings, and some innovative promotion techniques...

"Are you the Judean People's Front?" asks Brian as he searches for the cause he can join to impress his new lady. "*expletive deleted*! We are the People's Front of Judea!" comes the reply. The Judean Popular People's Front also gets a mention.

Three bodies, one cause, mass self-righteous disagreement. Lots of fighting and insults, no progress on the matter all the little 'splitter' groups are trying to achieve: the overthrow of the Romans.

One of our favourite scenes here in PR's offices, and one we could not help harking back to when it emerged that the two governing French bodies are now at odds with each other over French participation in the miserably-named Rugby Champions' Cup.

We have ERC, FFR, LNR, Premier Rugby and various RaboDirect Pro12 bodies all chucking in their ten pence worth, a mediator attempting to contact all ten (ten!) signatory organisations to the current ERC accord, a new tournament where only one nation's clubs are sure of participation (they could thus call it the Premiership and save a lot of hassle) and soundbites such as: "the nomination of a neutral mediator and the creation of an independent and confidential process now provides for an opportunity for serious engagement and genuine decisive negotiations on the part of all ERC decision-makers."

There has been nothing confidential about negotiations up to now, all it has been is an ugly media war - which also about sums up the 'serious engagement' mentioned as well. Alone the very finest 'public relations'-bitchiness of organising the Champions' Cup launch less than 24 hours before the launch of the Heineken Cup is a sign that we are dealing with some very precious ego here.

Genuine decisive negotiations are never going to happen when you have a ratio of one organisation for every 2.4 clubs involved in the Heineken Cup and millions of Pounds/Euros at stake, there are just too many chiefs.

It is time for the IRB to step in. Jobs at ERC are on the line among other things, while the credibility of the game across Europe is being seriously undermined. Most notably, none of the unions bar the RFU is interested in an English-led breakaway tournament. How long before it gets really ugly and the Six Nations suffers?

"We want a six-nation European tournament based on merit, with money divided between the three leagues, but it will not be run by ERC... Whatever, our competition will start...and the money BT is putting in does not vary depending on how many countries are involved," said Mark McCafferty, Premier Rugby Chief.

Money... codswallop. There are a lot of soundbites also going on about appeasing the game's stakeholders. Well, that happens to include you and I as paying punters looking for the best competition in Europe. So as stakeholders, isn't it about time to tell the egomaniacal buffoons waving their ill-harvested cash around to shut up, stop stirring the pot and give us our game back?

Meanwhile, weren't Super Rugby, Currie Cup and ITM Cup better than ever this year?


James O'Connor what have you done?

Too drunk to get on a plane is pretty damn drunk. Why on earth do something so spectacularly stupid when already on a warning?

It has been very revealing to see how many of Australia's senior players have backed O'Connor's dropping. The very obvious message from nearly every corner is: 'this has been a long time coming', tinged with notes of 'good riddance'.

O'Connor is now without national team and without Super Rugby franchise to play for. His rugby season is probably over and his time in Australia looks like it is up as well.

He may find a home in France for a while... but this is a crossroads for a talented player. There are no more chances once you are ostracised from your home country's rugby fraternity. The impression of O'Connor is not that of someone who embraces foreign culture and slips seamlessly in; clubs are already going to think twice about signing him.

O'Connor would do well to go into counselling or even rehab for a while, and keep a very, very low profile until next February.


Did we read right? The Kings were lobbying for a permanent place in the Currie Cup top tier?

What is it with some people in the game at the moment and the desperation to propel their own agenda forward at the cost of competition integrity? How can anyone conceive of being guaranteed a place in a competition to the concept of which relegation is a key element?

Words fail us - up to the point where the other unions shot the proposal down.


This week's themes: politics and bickering, drunk Australian players, the Kings trying to get preferential treatment. Plus ca change...


But on a lighter note, how about this for getting fans through the gates: promise visiting fans their money back if one of their players scores?

That was Saracens' way this week past, promising all Bath fans a full refund should Gavin Henson make it onto the scoreboard in any way.

The week before they offered Gloucester fans who predicted a Saracens win a full refund should Saracens do the business.

The Gloucester ploy worked. The Henson one didn't. Particularly not for Henson himself, who had a gilt-edged chance to give his new fans - who are lukewarm at best to Henson's arrival still - a free day out! You'd have thought they might have let him have a penalty shot though...

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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