Loose Pass

Date published: October 28 2014

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of meat pies, sausage rolls and slimy chips.

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of meat pies, sausage rolls and slimy chips. This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Beale-gate, a round of congratulations, November’s squads and TMO calls…

It will not go away. No sooner was Kurtley Beale happily proclaiming himself to be both ‘vindicated’ and ‘coming out of’ the ‘lows’ he has been going through in recent weeks, than the lady of the moment was out of her isolation and making a fresh insinuation about Beale’s evidence and reminding everyone how low she has been as well.

You can read into Di Patston’s new silence-break what you like – some of the media framework around her words is pretty intricate and attempts to make more of it than it should – but surely this is now time for the ARU to step up and slam the lid shut on this miserable affair. Follow up the slam with a couple of coffin nails and other sealants.

This disciplinary hearing should have answered every question conceivable and should have been swiftly followed up with the briefest of hearings over the mid-air argument between Beale and Patston so that one be put to bed also. This has not happened

Neither Beale nor Patston ought to be left with the feeling that speaking to the press openly about the affair would achieve anything beyond moving forward.

The ARU also need to furnish us with a better explanation as to what exactly constitutes the mitigation for Beale not to be suspended for his conduct, and there needs to be a more public declaration from the ARU that the person who sent the mysterious ‘second photo’ be swiftly brought to justice.

Instead we had a very PR-friendly and unsubstantial speech from Bill Pulver about how the ARU pride themselves on living the values of rugby, a few other bits and bobs trying to mop up the rest of the spillage, and the impression that either Beale has got off lightly or someone else is going unpunished.

The best decision all week was Michael Cheika’s to leave Beale at home, hinting Beale ought to spend a bit of time on the track and in the gym. Australia’s tour will start without that unwelcome distraction, while the ARU might be able to breathe easier as the press turn their focus to the pitch. Unless of course, Ms. Patston and one or two others have a little more to add…

A thumping pat on the back to Western Province and Taranaki for their respective provincial wins this weekend. For Western Province, and by extension for the Stormers, the win is a hugely positive sign that the future is significantly brighter than the recent past has been.

It’s been no secret that Allister Coetzee has been making adjustments to the playing culture in Cape Town, but the second Currie Cup in three years, and particularly the manner in which the team has played over the past four months, are definitely signs that the change process is advancing well. There might be a good Super Rugby year ahead in the Cape.

Meanwhile, Taranaki’s success in what has been a pulsating and unpredictable ITM Cup was just as richly-deserved.

New Zealand’s premier provincial competition has had many teething troubles after its revamp a few years ago and the decision to introduce a salary cap to reduce the power of the big five. The format has been tweaked, the salary cap was initially set far too high, the demands of the All Blacks’ schedule has interfered with the competition’s integrity.

But the tournament this year felt like the finished product. Brilliant matches with evenly-matched teams, no predictability, high-paced quality rugby. All culminating in Yarrow Stadium’s boisterous triumph. The ITM Cup remains the globe’s most entertaining domestic tournament.

With another – somewhat tepid – round of European action done, Europe now holds its breath ahead of the November internationals while the coaches count the cost of European club duty and the assorted injuries.

England will have to make do without Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole , Tom Croft, Geoff Parling, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs (and that’s just the ones likely to be starters, the squad casualty list is five or six more). Wales have got off reasonably lightly, although Jon Davies could be a big loss, and Scotland have just lost their captain while Ireland are without around ten players who could reasonably brag about being starters. The French are hardly injury-light either.

Is it the conditioning? Is it the structure and length of the season? Is it the intensity of the rugby? Is there anybody else out there in the northern hemisphere who sees this pattern repeating over and over again each year and is also frustrated? Answers on a postcard please… the comments section below is also good.

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens