Loose Pass: The ugliness of Worcester, importance of leadership and picking apart the Quins v Saints clash

Lawrence Nolan

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the ugliness of Worcester, the importance of leadership in tough times and picking apart some of the decisions in Quins v Saints…

The final act

It’s not one Loose Pass will dwell on too long as the column inches already devoted to the subject number many, but it is difficult not to want to pass quick comment on how low the behaviour of Worcester’s former administrators has been this week.

For them to criticise the players was a low enough move, but the supporters? “We are … sorry that there were not more, nor enough of you on a regular basis to help make the club financially viable,” was the withering assessment of a group of fans who had, largely, stuck with the club through thick and thin.

The attendances at Sixways had been in decline for years, since at least eight seasons before Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham took control. But the average was above that of, say Newcastle or Sale and not far off Saracens. Moreover, a rough assessment of Premiership attendances back in 2018 noted that although Worcester’s attendance was low, they still brought in a healthy 7.7 per cent of Worcester’s actual population; that’s more than Leicester, more than Northampton, more than Bristol. In terms of local appeal, Worcester were doing just fine; they have certainly not been the only club to register a decline in attendances since 2010.

An equally withering assessment of the owners was forthcoming from many a fan on Friday, many noting that the pair have been at least as absent during the crisis as the fans they criticise, while the players they criticise for not taking pay cuts have been shovelled around from one dodgy business pillar to another trying to work out what happens to their contracts and futures. Rarely can a player have been more made to look like a commodity than Worcester’s did this week.

Rugby urgently needs to learn from this whole sorry episode. We mentioned it last week and we’re emphasising it now: the game in England needs some regular financial policing, such as the ‘audit police’ of the Top 14 who ensure clubs make budgets, have the resources in place to fulfil them, and stick to them through a season.

Leadership Test

One of the aspects of the Worcester collapse is not only how low the owners have been behaving, but also how well the players and staff have conducted themselves.

Futures, houses, livelihoods, children’s security, all in the hands of others, the players continued to play. Once the game was finally up – signing off with an emphatic win was a nice touch – Steve Diamond was quite succinct in his determination to go to a pub and have a few to let off some steam.

Alcohol and tension rarely mix well, but not one report of anti-social behaviour has been forthcoming since the players were dropped into limbo weeks ago.

Compare that to Cardiff, where players are at least getting good salaries month in and month out, yet feel compelled to give a bar whose staff had had enough of the violent threats and drunkenness an ‘egging’.

Strong leadership has been evident in Worcester throughout, it is a testing moment for the Blues’ leadership to deal with their players with equal strength after a rough start to the season.

Picking apart the Quins-Saints clash

Four things from Quins-Saints:

1. How refreshing to see referee Tom Foley tell the two packs of forwards to stop celebrating scrum wins so enthusiastically in the faces of the opposition.

2. How was Lewis Ludlam’s placing of the ball, during which he moved the ball from level with his guts to level with his shoulders, a double movement?

3. How frustrating must it have been for all watching to have the referee and TMO go through a protocol and arrive at a decision, have that decision communicated on the pitch, and then have the TMO butt in just as the game is about to restart having found another ‘new angle’ and get the decision reversed? The right decision in the end, but it shouldn’t happen like this.

4. Is the photo of Cadan Murley scoring his side’s fifth try going to be the rugby pic of the season?

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