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Loose Pass

01st July 2014 06:43

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Nemani Nadolo Fiji v Cook Islands RWC qualifier 2014

Nemani Nadolo and Fiji ended the Cook Islands' RWC dreams

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of tannic reds, over-alcoholic rosÚs and acidic whites.

This week we will mostly be cooking with World Cup qualifiers and bizarre choices of attire.

The IRB World Cup qualifying round has this time thrown up more rarities than most.

Germany looked like a side that might write a new name into Europe's sub-six Nations balance of power for a while. The Cook Islands were a game away, while Madagascar are hosting a tournament from which they could end up qualifying - at the very least a play-off against Russia is up for grabs. Hong Kong are up against Uruguay - the winners of that one are in with England, Wales, Australia and Fiji!.

The Cook Islands' story was perhaps the best. Only 500 registered players are in coach Barry George's local selection pool, and they travelled to Lautoka, via the northern half of New Zealand's South Island where they played a brace of warm-up games, with the campaign banner 'One Win, One Dream' spurring them on.

This followed on from a locally-produced documentary from director Scott Kelso entitled 'One More Win', documenting the campaign, the lack of funding, the sacrifices made... all typical cliches perhaps, but with giant countries, if not giant rugby cultures, making inroads into the sport, it was good to know that such fairy tales could exist.

And for 27 minutes, they held firm, took chances and were leading the Fijians, twice World Cup quarter-finalists, 6-5 on their own patch. One Dream was real.

Alas, it was not to be. The Fijians' largely professional class, led by one of the year's finds Nemani Nadolo, ensured that this particular Goliath was wearing safety goggles. Fiji ran in 13 tries in the second half, not even leaving the visitors the crumb of a consolation dot-down in the 108-6 victory.

But as I have heard from a couple of international 'minnow' coaches over the past year, the important thing is to be there, then be there again next time and even if you lose, you lose by a little less. One day you will get there.

Meanwhile in Madagascar, the rugby-nuts locals pitched up to the tune of some 25,000 people to see their side take on Zimbabwe in the capital Antananarivo.

Sadly for them, the bubble was burst by the opposition as well. Zimbabwe, who have not been at a World Cup since the 1991 tournament, raced into a 22-0 half-time lead and while the Malagasi mounted a spirited fightback to make it 22-15, that was as good as it got in the 57-22 defeat.

The other result in the second match of the four-team play-off was a bit more of a surprise with Kenya defeating Namibia 27-22. While the Namibians were short a couple of their more marquee players, the result - and the manner it was achieved in - was a definite benefit from Kenya's long-term investment in their Sevens game.

It will take a long time for the effects to trickle down completely, but there was never a more important moment for the game than the decision to include sevens in the Olympics.


Back to the realms of the professionals and their own choices and.... who in (insert deity here)'s name chose the kit for the Rebels to humiliate themselves in this weekend past?

Looking like a white canvas supplied to a group of four-year-olds in a Dulux factory, it was every bit as hideous as the first-half performance from the home side.

It was said to be in the name of the indigenous art of the cultures constituting the Rebels, but there are tasteful displays of art, and there was this jersey.

Is there no end to the sacrifice of identity in the name of a marketing ploy?

The jerseys are now on auction - supposedly they have been kept in playing condition for this (dear Deity, the stench!) - with the proceeds funding the Victoria U14 and U16 teams' tours of New Zealand later this season.

It's a noble cause, there's lots to laud about the concept. But goodness me, why that design? Is the regional representative team's regular colours not an honour enough?


Anyway, had there been any major talking points from the weekend past I might not have talked about it... after all the drama of the past month, did we really have a weekend of flawless officiating, no TMO controversy and plain good rugby? Excellent...

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

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