Loose Pass: Mathieu Bastareaud and issues at RA

Date published: June 19 2019

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with doors opening and closing in France and Australia’s Super Rugby vision going forward…

Life changes

It’s been quite the week for Mathieu Bastareaud. Unveiled by Rugby United New York for the next Major League Rugby season, he returned to France to find himself effectively tools down for the next few months after he was not named in Jacques Brunel’s World Cup squad. Nor the standbys.

It’s pretty clear that Sofiane Guitoune was the form choice, just as it is pretty clear that something may well have happened between Bastareaud and Brunel that no one else is party too.

Bastareaud has captained his country on occasion and is an experienced and proven performer. Barely a single coach dispenses with such experience these days without significant reason and, while Guitoune has played well, it is staggering that Bastareaud is not at least among the standbys.

Bastareaud gave an interview upon arrival in New York, where among a few other things, he said: “The Top 14 is a lot of players coming from New Zealand, South Africa and the level is very high… I just want change. I play eight seasons in Toulon and every time it was the same. I want to change everything.”

“For me it is important to play in another country, just for learning other cultures, because maybe in France we are … not open-minded.”

What that last bit meant is open to all manner of interpretation. But it is clear that Bastareaud has had a fill of French rugby and perhaps his knowledge of his impending World Cup squad omission – and/or the reasons therefore – played their part in that.

Major League Rugby, having enjoyed an epic finale last weekend which came down to the final play of the game, is gaining traction and big names. With France’s door closed to Bastareaud, America’s is now wide open for the monster centre and his new family. A shame we won’t see him in Japan, but we wish him well.

Three down, more to go?

Once, Super Rugby had up to 18. Now we are back to 15. The Sunwolves are on their way out. And now it has emerged that Australia may force (sorry) another franchise through the exit door.

Whether this rumour/call has anything to do with the cost of the Israel Folau saga is not known, but what is known is that this would be a devastating blow for rugby’s future marketability in Australia.

Neither the Waratahs or Reds would be likely to go, meaning the choice for Rugby Australia would either be the Brumbies – the one team playing well at the moment but the team with the smallest market – or the Rebels; poor performers but plonked in a sports-mad city of five million souls.

Do you cull a successful small team or a large failing one? Or, given the stellar performance of the U20s in Argentina this past fortnight, do you sweat it out and take some financial pain?

Maybe that does depend on Folau’s appeal outcome, which apparently might be worth an eight-figure sum if he wins, easily enough to fund a franchise for a season.

Folau has not done himself any favours with society this week, with a video emerging where he says that children and people being given the ability to choose sexuality and gender is the devil’s work.

But Australian rugby continues to not be in a good place – there’s a union that could do with the mixed blessing of the Nations Championship for starters, simply for the cash alone.

Loose Pass compiled by Lawrence Nolan