Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

25th November 2013 08:23

Share:

Tommy Bowe of Ireland shows his dejection

Losing isn't fun...

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with standards, Europe's mess, and discipline...

It didn't take long. Not half an hour after the final whistle had blown on the enthralling Aviva Stadium contest, Facebook was awash with outpourings of sympathy to Ireland. 'So unlucky', 'fantastic effort', 'Ireland be proud', 'great effort', and of course the ubiquitous 'Ireland were robbed' (although that guy is not without a deeply ironic sense of humour).

Anyway, everybody seemed to be of the opinion that Ireland had achieved something magical already, which for this correspondent only served to show just how ingrained into the psyche the perceived difference between the hemispheres is.

For the record: Ireland lost. In fact, they did not only lose, they were at 19-0 up at home after 20 minutes, 22-7 up at half-time, and they utterly, utterly blew it. A missed penalty that would have sealed the deal with five to go, a crazy penalty conceded with one to go, umpteen missed tackles, a couple of botched chances...

As a native northerner, I also have nothing but tremendous respect and admiration for New Zealand, which is only enhanced by their achievement this year of 14 from 14. You can't knock their skill and tenacity. Nor can you knock South Africa's continued ability to suffocate every opponent they come across, nor can you say Australia are spent as a competitive force.

But you can now start knocking a general attitude up north for being too satisfied with being second. Only in Wales over the past couple of years has there been a tangible sense of anger and frustration at not being able to claim a big SH scalp, rather than a pat-on-the-bum, never-mind-you-did-your-best, Mum-will-give-you-a-hug, take solace from being close in defeat kind of attitude.

When South Africa lose at home there's a national inquest. When New Zealand lose at home it is unwise to talk positive rugby there until the order has been restored. And you only have to look at how Australians are all up in arms despite a relatively successful tour to understand how important success is to them.

So here's a thought for Ireland - and for that matter, England (after the New Zeland game anyway), Wales, Scotland (after the Australia game) and France, who had both South Africa and New Zealand in their sights this November: you are two years out from a 'home' World Cup, and losing the close games from winning positions is just not good enough any more. It should not be good enough for the fans and it should not be good enough for the teams either.

Only when the players and the fans up north really start to understand that, to understand the difference between unnecessary negativity and the critical process necessary for improvement to the elite level, to understand that giving one's best is not good enough unless one understands how to improve one's best, will the teams in the north catch up.

So sorry Ireland. Good game and all. But no pick-me-ups here; you stuffed that up good and proper and you need to go and work out why.


Other takeaways from the weekend:

1 - Wales' strength in depth still isn't all that. A useful outing it was, but there needs perhaps to be a degree of experimentation in the forthcoming Six Nations with some of these youngsters, who looked a little overwhelmed by the step-up in intensity.

2 - Both Italy and Argentina are transitional now from their respective golden generations. Close the game in Rome was. Skilful and high-quality it was not.

3 - South Africa are still the masters of niggle. For neutrals it is tough to appreciate their quality when it is masked by a succession of pointless bits of off-the-ball rubbish. Classy teams don't do that.

4 - Freddie Michalak is possibly more popular in South Africa than France. Just the number of hugs from Bismarck du Plessis alone - the hooker did a passable imitation of a wife whose husband has just returned from a fortnight-long business trip - were evidence of that. Michalak certainly was not smiling at his team-mates at the end...

5 - The turf at the Stade de France remains an insult to international rugby. A game of potential quality, in which scrums would undoubtedly be a pivotal part, utterly eviscerated by the shoddy state of the turf. Granted the French had to accommodate soccer on the Wednesday, but a pitch that disintegrates that badly...we've dealt with a few cases like that this November, is it worth daring to suggest punishing unions who can't get their houses tidy ahead of illustrious visitors?


Here's a great bit of business from the idiots trying to revolutionise European rugby at the moment. In the second paragraph of quotes in one of this week's press releases:

"We are meeting the French clubs again next week to sort out details about our cup, such as a logo..."

Good to know they are getting the really important part sorted out then... I mean, does anybody know without looking it up what the Heineken Cup logo actually looks like? I know it's green in bits...

Seriously though, the first paragraph was more worrying: "A problem in all this is that the unions see it as a power struggle, which it is not," said Mark McCafferty.

So what is it exactly then? Some people leading some clubs away on one side, while some other people lead some other clubs away on the other side.

The minutiae of this prolonged and acrimonious debate over the future of the Heineken Cup can be found elsewhere on this site for you to read. Our message remains simple: please just sort it out and sort it out soon.

If the north loses the bridge between Premiership/Pro12 and Test rugby, it will put rugby in the north back a decade.


Finally, Ewen McKenzie gave out a resolute message this week, suspending six, warning nine and cautioning others for a boozy night out last week.

By far the best aspect of it all was the reaction of Adam Ashley-Cooper's ma, who went on air on a Brisbane radio station to lament the fact that the 90-cap Wallaby was being made an example of.

"...he's missing a game for not upholding the behavioural and cultural standards of an elite athlete representing the Wallabies. He said he'll cop it and move forward, but he's really upset..." said Mrs. A-C.

Bless. But fair dos to McKenzie, who is only sorting out a problem in Australia that has been festering ever since Eddie Jones was ousted.

But it may come back to haunt him. We hear that among his mail on Monday morning will be three sick notes, a further two off-games certificates, and a letter explaining that little Johnny needs to be excused because he's not allowed to do hobbies this week after not tidying his room.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks15:15
Castres vs Leinster13:00
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Preview
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Brive vs Zebre18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade Francais14:00
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , October 25
Western Province vs Lions17:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , October 25
Taranaki vs Tasman19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615