Loose Pass

Date published: April 11 2017

This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with Chris Ashton, Dillyn Leyds, Brian Moore and Frankenstein’s monster.

Harsh medicine

And so the axe has finally fallen. Well, it has been raised up to the sky.

Super Rugby is to be cut from 18 teams to 15, and from four conferences to three. Australia will lose one side and South Africa will be forced to shed two.

Easier said than done.

You can’t just conjure up a series of beings out of thin air and then expect them to dig their own graves in the face of their own imperfections. Just ask poor old Victor Frankenstein.

Predictably, the Rebels and the Force – Australia’s twin abominations of nature – are now seeking revenge on their own creator. Rugby Western Australia has already issued a writ against the ARU on behalf of the Force, while the Rebels are also considering their legal options.

Give the political quagmire in which South African rugby operates, the fightback has made a slower start over in the Republic. But expect the Kings to finally find the will to live. And what of that second severed head on the wall? A Cheetah? A Bull?

If it is really down to “who can prove that they are commercially viable and financially stable”, it is the Bulls who are currently deeper in the red. Imagine that!

But if it was really down to commercial viability and financial stability, why should all five New Zealand franchises survive the cull?

In short, things are set to get very messy. Australian rugby looks destined to spend cash it can’t afford to squander on armies of lawyers, while South Africans will be forced to witness the altar-death of at least one much-loved son.

And yet Loose Pass welcomes the harsh medicine. It should never have come to this, but we must face up to the fact that it has, indeed, come to this.

A wonderful competition had gone to seed. This prune is long overdue. But lopping off a few weedy branches will not address the problems that affect the roots of Super Rugby.

Much as New Zealand did in 2007, both South Africa and Australia now need to review their entire internal structures and come up with a unified vision of their own game. They need a single blueprint for the use of both the aspiring kid and the national coach.

As Victor would have learnt during his days as a junior doctor, the constant attention of a good nurse is as important as major intervention by a surgeon.

Surprise attack

With just over a week to go until the British and Irish Lions squad is named, a well-placed source tells Loose Pass that Chris Ashton’s name has already been sewn into a red tracksuit.

The logic behind the Saracen’s inclusion is, apparently, two-fold.

Firstly, if you are to beat the All Blacks in their own backyard, you need the element of surprise. You’ll never beat them on the dry-board or with set moves or with familiar patterns of play. You need the unexpected. You need guile. You need panache. You need, well, at least un essai du bout du monde.

The France-bound wing tick those boxes. He’s able to score tries out of nothing, and his ability to read play and track attacks makes him fiendishly hard to defend against.

What’s more, New Zealanders know comparatively little about him. The last memory they have of him would be his part in England’s so-near, yet so-far series back in 2014. That alone could cause of few wobbles within New Zealand ranks.

But it is this apparent need for mavericks that has us enthralled. Is Warren Gatland really planning to get properly creative? And if so, who else could feature?

How about Nick Abendanon, currently dolling out French lessons to the French? Or how about Joey Carbery, who scared the bejesus out of the All Blacks in Chicago with his Dan Carter-esque grip on time and space?

How about Danny Cipriani? Semesa Rokoduguni? Sean Cronin? The mind boggles!

Oh, and that second principle behind Gatland’s apparent inclusion of England-reject Ashton? Merely to rile Eddie Jones!

Fight in the old dog

A toast, if you will, to Brian Moore, who has proved his pugnacious spirit remain undimmed by seeing off a heart attack that threatened to send him off once and for all.

The former England hooker is currently recovering in hospital where he’s whiling away the hours on Twitter. His musings on morality and the vagaries of human existence are well worth a read. Check them out here – and our apologies for the language, of course!

We’re still not quite sure how close he got to the threshold of that Canaan clubhouse, but we imagine that the thought of Eddie Butler hamming up his eulogy was enough to see him through.

All the best, Pitbull. Get well soon.

Doing a Dillyn

A new term has entered the rugby lexicon: ‘Doing a Dillyn.’

It refers to that transcendent touch from Dillyn Leyds during the Stormers’ remarkable win over the Chiefs on Saturday. (Say what you will about Super Rugby’s frailties, it can provide some epic entertainment!)

Among the first to deploy the phrase – much to Leyds’s delight, surely – was new Bok defence coach Brendan Venter who tweeted this video of his son’s very passable impersonation.

Think you can match that? Send us your own attempts on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll share the best!

Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson