Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

02nd September 2014 08:47


James OConnor Australia

Nasty rumour: James O'Connor

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of warm cuppas, mild coacoas and grande quad non-fat, one-pump, no-whip, mochas.

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with player PR, franchising effects, a phoenix-like start to a season, and a cracking weekend coming up...

James O'Connor's bizarrely and uniquely tailored contract solution saga goes on - and should not be changing for a while now at least. But boy oh boy was it protracted. And not in any kind of good way.

The oddest part of it all to emerge was the rumour - and I stress, only a rumour - that O'Connor asked for guarantees from the ARU about his being given a fair shot at Wallaby rugby as well as Reds rugby.

That the rumour is believable tells a lot about how O'Connor has been known to conduct himself in the past, but the question of how much something needs to be denied was raised by a colleague during the week.

There are rumours and rumours. There have been rumours of a crisis at Munster this week after supposed player report documents were mistakenly sent to the entire Munster staff, rumours which have been swiftly quashed and the circumstances explained. There are rumours about which town in England will be able to prefix itself to the Wasps in the near future, rumours which the club swiftly clarified.

This rumour about James O'Connor is by some distance the most nasty of them all - no player in any international team should be demanding any form of selection guarantee in any circumstance, it is one of the game's great essences that nobody can have that sort of ego and be accepted - yet nothing was clarified at all beyond the fact he did not ask for any special paragraphs in his contract with the Reds.

Of course, in the case of nothing of the sort having been requested by O'Connor, you can argue that nothing needs to be clarified.

But here is a young player whose career has not exactly been defined by exemplary behaviour, who has not endeared himself to his national fraternity, and who is known for thinking himself somewhat more important than the team he plays for.

He presumably works with agents - anyone who plays for Toulon seems to have a phalanx of them - and they presumably know of the public doubts about him. Would it not have been good to get these rumours denied? Or has this particular leopard not changed as many spots as we might have hoped?

On to Wasps. They might move to Coventry. They might, according to their PR department, move somewhere else as well. But the point is, they are likely to move, and few of the mooted possible destinations are closer to their long-time Sudbury base in Middlesex.

They would not be the only rugby team to have shifted location to find a permanent home in recent years, but there is little denying that those clubs who are leading such a 'nomadic' existence are the ones who find it harder to create and maintain the fevered advantageous home atmosphere found in the south of France and West of England.

London Irish do a great job of matchday experience, but having one side only of the Madejski full is not intimidating to visitors, nor awe-inspiring to the neutral.

Furthermore, how might Coventry RFC appreciate the move (if it is there)? They are no shrinking violets in their own league - two levels below Premiership - yet now find themselves potentially superseded by rich neighbours moving in.

Deals can be struck, but it would take the gloss off Coventry's standing in the community somewhat to find themselves no longer the big team in the area.

You can appreciate Wasps' need to move and find a more suitable home, but surely it should be closer to their traditional home rather than further away?

Given the number of times we have slammed them down the months and years, it's probably worth doffing cap to the chaps who are bringing the right stuff through at Western Province.

The Cape is no stranger to maverick running talents, yet has had a tradition over the past two or three years for dumbing such talents down at the expense of rigid territorial playing structures.

This year's Currie Cup side is once again full of emergent talent, but it seems to have been given more licence to shine, something that, given the excellence displayed by the Capetonian backs on Saturday at Loftus and the distinctly stale look to the Super Rugby side, may prove to be just the sort of tonic the Super Rugby side - and maybe even the national side - needs?

This is my second-favourite time of year, following from the April weekends that bring Super Rugby and Heineken Cup knockout rounds.

The weekend is being planned thus: Friday night is Western province v Eastern Province, followed by Northampton v Gloucester or Montpellier v Castres and backed up by the Celtic League highlights.

Saturday will kick off in New Zealand with Taranaki v Southland, followed by the All Blacks taking on Argentina, then a trip to my own club for a match in the early afternoon, back later for Irish v Quins and back that up with Glasgow v Leinster, Stade Francais v Bayonne and Toulon v Bordeaux. Sunday will be seen in with another ITM Cup match, before I head back to England for Piri Weepu's debut for London Welsh v Exeter and Cardiff's trip to the Zebre.

Life is good.

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Preview
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs ZebreMunster vs Zebre Preview
Cardiff Blues vs UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Preview
Connacht vs LeinsterConnacht vs Leinster Preview
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Preview
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs ToulonBrive vs Toulon Preview
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse14:45
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Montpellier vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs PumasLions vs Pumas Preview
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
Saturday , September 20
Hawkes Bay vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Thursday , September 18
Northland 20 - 31 TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Report
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
3Leicester Tigers29