Loose Pass

Date published: November 8 2016

This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with the bust-up in Bristol, the joke about the three Englishmen, and that non-event in Chicago.   

Heaven’s game

A marketing scam of a match, organised for pure financial purposes, played flagrantly outside World Rugby’s designated Test window… and in bleeping Chicago of all places!

Regular readers of this curmudgeonly column might recognise that as an extract from the first draft of our review of the weekend. They wouldn’t be too far wrong.

But then the Irish formed that figure of eight, and we immediately knew we were in for something special. In that very instant, we remembered why we fell in love with rugby in the first place.

Where the heck did that result come from?!

Still in a state of obvious befuddlement, New Zealand skipper Kieran Read issued his own explanation as he trudged off Soldier Field: “I just don’t know if we turned up with perhaps the right attitude.”

Some have claimed his diagnosis lacked generosity of spirit, others have labelled it arrogant or symptomatic of a team – as Sir Clive Woodward put it – “getting carried away with their own publicity”.

We call it bang on the money.

The back-to-back world champions didn’t play poorly. Their attitude wasn’t ‘wrong’. They simply could not match the will of the men arrayed against them.

A couple of weeks ago, Loose Pass ventured that the spirit of Anthony Foley might propel Munster some way towards its former heights. Looking at recent results, we might have been on to something.

But what fools to have believed the the great man’s heavenly adventures would be limited by provincial lines!

Foley was the touchpaper as the Irish lit up the Windy City on Saturday. Together they reminded us that for all the brain and brawn in modern rugby, you won’t go down in history without oodles of heart.

But still, that only goes some way to explain this most bonkers of results!

Let’s just pray it’s America’s last of the week.

Here’s to you, Andy Robinson

From the good of our sport, to the very bad: just what were Bristol thinking when they chose to announce that they had “taken the decision to suspend” Andy Robinson?

We’re not questioning the fact that the club has endured a terrible start to the season. What’s more, Bristol’s suits are well within their rights to pin the blame on their director of rugby – and even to fire him, as they subsequently did.

But why go about it in such a mean-hearted way? What’s wrong with the whole ‘mutual consent’ line?

Surely an immediate suspension should entail something ghastly, but our inquiries have unearthed nothing more sinister than a club struggling to find its feet following its elevation to England’s top table. Injuries have played a big part, as did loss of Steve Borthwick to national duty.

If Robinson had taken to treating academy players as he treated the Murrayfield furniture, then fair enough. But you can still dispense of a man with a little class.

This is rugby, not soccer. Let’s never go there.

Three of the best

And so England’s star continues to rise! Unbeaten in their last ten games and looking to completely the calendar clean sweep, they’ve just received the happy news that not one, not two, but three of their number are on World Rugby’s shortlist for Player of the Year.

Only five Englishmen have previously enjoyed this honour, so three in a single year is, well, a veritable crowd.

We’ve just accused others of being mean-hearted so we can’t be too crotchety, but don’t you think this is all a bit too much, too soon? How could they have possibly out-scored the All Blacks three to two?

England have always been quite partial to their own reflection, and we all know what follows in the footsteps of pride. Their new coach is not beyond conceit himself, so he’d be well advised to alert his charges to the fate of tall poppies.

If a motley crew of Barbarians are too much for South Africa, then England are definitely out of reach. But Eddie’s gold-clad countrymen will be sure to descend upon the Cabbage Patch with lopping muscles fully flexed.

Loose Pass was compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson