This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the TMO, the broadcasting rights fiasco, Argentina's ambitions and the whole exodus to France thing...
So... Your trusty correspondent has spent weeks in the USA, France and South Africa recently. And he (or she - ed.) has come to the following conclusion: the NFL is what rugby wants to become.
Seriously. How long has it been since an 80-20 try decision was not referred to a TMO? How many times per game does the TMO now get called upon for some form of decision for foul play or not for something utterly innocuous or irrelevant? Indeed, how many players are penalised for such? How many times are our TV screens filled with the sight of posturising players either gloating, goading or going bonkers because they actually managed to touch down for a try without the need for a TMO referral...?
Ok so we've only seen a handful of games. But the big one for us was Wayne Barnes' handling of Saracens v Leicester on Saturday. A TMO referral for a tackle that was not absolutely legal, but was significantly worse in technique than in terms of the law it breached (never mind the concussion suffered by the tackler), a penalty against Ben Youngs' forcible removal of a singularly cynical Steve Borthwick maul position on the wrong side, a TMO referral (and abysmal TMO decision) for a clear forward pass leading up to a try... and never mind the stops and starts preceded by a "could you just have a look at this tiny aspect which has no material influence but I want to see..."
This business of the TMO's increased powers has swung the pendulum too far in the direction of videotape officiating, taken too much accountability away from the men in the middle, and has disrupted the flow of too many games. How far can we go before the helmets come on?
A fortnight ago, the Baltimore v Minnesota NFL game yielded a bizarre five touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game. Every single touchdown had to be video reviewed, while there were a brace of highly dubious penalty calls, one of which was challenged by the coach and thus was also sent to review. The final 125 seconds of the game took nearly 20 minutes.
Does rugby want to go down this road or are we going to challenge the officials - and that includes the linesmen who are just not doing anything at the moment except saying "I think, but I am not sure..." to start earning their keep and making the decisions? This column has frequently tried to stand behind officials and their decisions, even in the face of much public wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it's hard to do when the decisions are not being made...
So now BT are in discussions with the Welsh and Irish teams? Come on...
We're not even going to bother trying to work out the ramifications of it all, nor the truth. So much has already been written, reported, repeated, recycled, regurgitated and reneged upon over the past few months by so many parties that it's not even worth speculating any more.
We're thus only going to reiterate what's always been our mantra during this whole sordid fiasco of back-stabbing and self-interest that has purported to be the Heineken Cup renegotiation:
Please please please make sure that next year we have a good, competitively honest, well-run pan-European competition to enjoy. Not only does a significant portion of casual viewership depend on it, but also - especially given the desperate quality of the weekend's action - some form of competition preparing Europe's elite to do battle against the Super Rugby depends upon it as well.
Bringing us on neatly to Super Rugby, that... and more positive notes, including suggestions that Argentina will have a Super Rugby team soon enough.
Not soon enough for us. Leaving aside for a few moments the internal squabbles that appear to have halted the Pumas' progress for the moment, they desperately need a team of contracted players playing in the right hemisphere, climate and season. I mean, who would want a team of players taken from European competition at the moment...?
And finally, despite all the best efforts of all involved the Flood to France appears to continue unabated. Every pun intended.
It's not only Toby Flood, there's the Welsh legions, now James O'Connor (is there any London Irish fan out there who believes he is giving 100% for the team right now after Friday night's display?)...
It's a clear side-effect of the European negotiation. French teams have more money. There's no clear cut top level European competition to aim for in any other country, so why wouldn't the frustrated or the internationally-renowned head across the channel?
Finally, while this all seems a little negative, we do still remember this is the season of goodwill and peace to all. So the very best of Christmasses to you all and here's hoping that conversion is awaiting every try waiting under the Christmas tree...
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson