Loose Pass: Brodie Retallick, stopping another Wasps and Worcester scenario and the outstanding Alex Goode

Lawrence Nolan
Loose Pass on Brodie Retallick and Alex Goode

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with breakdowns in the game, breakdowns off the pitch and a tipped hat to a very unrewarded player…

The dangers of poaching

Ian Foster has a reasonable duty to back up his players in the case of grey areas, but there was a particularly cherryish hue to the grey area surrounding the incident that saw Brodie Retallick sent off last weekend.

He was late getting there, he tucked his arm in, his shoulders were below his waist, he didn’t bind… the list of technical deficiencies goes on. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the direct contact to the head. “I certainly didn’t see any intent, apart from trying to move a body,” said Foster. But how many times does it have to be made clear to all: intent is not a factor in decisions like this any more. Even good technique occasionally goes punished; as mentioned above, this was not good technique.

Anyway, the rumour mill is alive with rumblings that jackalling/poaching the ball as the recipient of Retallick’s shoulder, Kazuki Himeno, was trying to do, along with players blasting poachers away or crocodile-rolling them around their knees and off the ball, are all soon to be outlawed.

Olympic-winning Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan has been an outspoken critic of the dangers of the breakdown collisions such as Retallick’s on Saturday, or the crocodile cleanout which gave Jack Willis an unscheduled year off early last year, for some time.

Loose Pass can only agree. If rugby is really to get tough on the potential collisions of force on head or spine, it seems bizarre that poaching is even allowed. The dangers inherent in a player standing still, top of the spine and base of the neck exposed, almost begging to be smashed off are too great in the modern game.

If the crocodile roll is nothing to do with head clashes, it is still both an eyesore and a risk. An eyesore because of its result: bodies all over the place, and a risk because… Well, ask Willis. Again, you don’t need intent, and even good ‘technique’ is risky: all you need is a stuck stud.

What might the alternatives be? No poaching, jackalling or crocodiling, only straight shoulder a shoulder counter-rucking allowed? Possible, although the chances of rucks turning into a form of NFL offensive line wrestling match around the breakdown are high. The chances also of there simply being no ruck at all are high too; if so many of the current ruck competition points are removed in one stroke, who’s really going to bother rucking? Which leads us away from NFL and towards rugby league…

It’s difficult to conceive. Yet the dangers are clear to see. Like so much else that is unique to our beautiful game since it has turned professional: the increased size, strength and speed of the highly-trained wrecking balls has tipped a risky part of the game over the threshold of being too dangerous.

World Rugby is being left with little choice, but it will be under heavy pressure to ensure that the alternative is a good one.

The administrators move in

So it does at least now seem that both Wasps and Worcester will be saved by fresh buyers, given a shot a redemption in the Championship, and allowed to start functioning again in due course.

Great for those whose jobs may be saved, but less great, we feel, for the state of the sport in general unless both clubs’ revivals are accompanied by the publication and announcement of both a far more stringent and open set of financial rules for professional rugby clubs, and some fairly hefty probation regulations for the new owners.

For while all the Wasps legends and Atlas investors can pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves on the rescue mission accomplished, there’s a lurking suspicion that the rescues could also end up helping brush the events of this season under the table.

The rescues make the publication and implementation of new financial rules and frameworks more important than ever. Over to you, RFU and Premier Rugby…

Go you Goode thing

Has there ever been a more under-rated player in England – by the national coach at least – than Alex Goode?

Now the most-capped Saracen ever: 339 appearances over 14 seasons is an impressive average of 21 games a season – lest we forget, his actual number of appearances at elite level in that time is 360, a result of his 21 caps won for his country.

Why that last particular number is so low is a complete mystery to so many. Across almost all of those 360 games he has been dependable, reliable, physical, competitive at the very least. On his day he is superb. It has been a rare day indeed when you could turn around to a fellow observer and say: “that Alex Goode wasn’t up to much today was he?”

Even on his lone appearance for England since coming back from shoulder surgery in 2013 he was solid, if unspectacular – his peers were not up to all that much that day either. The recent emergence of Freddie Steward means Goode is by no means the best any more, but as Eddie Jones continues to wax lyrical about players needing to be versatile, it baffles that Goode, who can do all of fly-half, centre and full-back with equal cool and collection, never got a look in over what is now close to a decade.

In a season where so many clubs will be weakened by the loss of international players to Test duty. England’s loss is Saracens’ gain.

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