Welcome to Loose Pass. This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with the Super 15, Danny Cipriani and planks…
Welcome to Loose Pass – our weekly assortment of musings, mutterings, tickled fancies and disjointed thoughts. This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with the Super 15, Danny Cipriani and planks…
If you're looking for a damning indictment of the newfangled Super 15 tournament, you won't find it here. No-siree!
You'll find it here.
Loose Pass really doesn't have much to add to our esteemed colleague's chest-clearer, we'd rather just issue a warning: never invite John O'Neill to a party, he'll dilute the booze with water and insist that it is the finest grog known to man.
Of course, not many people would dream of inviting the ARU boss to a party. Here are just a few who most definitely would not:
Rugby players: Early retirement, here you come. The Super 14's big trump card over, say, the Heineken Cup, was that it showcased players who were fit and firing. Less rugby meant more recovery time, less carrying of injury and duly faster, more dynamic contests.
Now, faced with over 30 games a season, the top players of the south can feel as blighted as those in the north who are put through the mill every weekend for ten months of the year.
And limps are set to grow more pronounced in the near future: “high-level discussions” have been conducted in recent months aimed at further expanding the Super 15 to a Super-Duper 18 tournament from 2013.
Rugby fans: Don't insult our intelligence. We know big doesn't mean better. More games mean that the franchises will need bigger squads, meaning that the big-name stars won't be featuring as often, meaning less bang for our bucks. And, yes, season tickets will have to go up.
Furthermore, playing resources will need to be spread thinly to allow for the creation of a 15th team meaning rugby of a generally lower quality. You only have to look at the opposite scenario to know this to be true. Wales went the other way, concentrating their resources in just four regions, and have not looked back – better teams, better rugby, full stadia. Scotland recently went down the same route, and early indications are good – Edinburgh finished second in the Magners League; Glasgow ended just one point behind the much-admired Blues.
Argentinians: What happened to the promise to involve the South Americans at some stage in the future? You know, the lads who landed bronze at the most recent World Cup. Yes, there's always that Melbourne, er, we mean 'mystery' 15th franchise which is still up for grabs. Where will it reside? Well, apparently anywhere but Argentina, according to NZRU chief executive Steve Tew…
“There is obviously significant interest from South Africa, as well as three or four Australian cities, and maybe Japan and the Pacific Islands and who knows, maybe New Zealand as well.”
Steve, you should have saved your breath and simply bared your bum in the direction of Buenos Aires.
Aspiring players: More local derbies might sound like an attractive proposition, but the advent of the Super 15 looks set to come at the expense of existing domestic structures. South Africa's Currie Cup and New Zealand's ANZ Cup are nurseries of rugby, and it remains unclear how they will benefit by being overshadowed by the new format. Will Rupert Murdoch's money seep down to the grassroots? Is Homer Simpson in good shape?
Newcomers to rugby: It's simple – three national conferences of five sides apiece play home and away ties, then teams play four out of the five teams from the other two conferences, then there's a break, then the three conference winners and three wildcard teams with the highest number of competition points from any conference qualify for the play-offs, then the wildcard teams and the conference winner with the least competition points will play an elimination round to meet the two conference winners with the greatest number of competition points in the semi-finals, then there's a final somewhere.
Anyone still awake out there?
Purveyors of common sense: The new schedule means that the Tri-Nations will take place alongside Australia's NRL and AFL finals. Is that a good idea, or will it mean less advertising revenue for everyone?
Rugby League fans and officials: Where will the extra players needed for the 15th side come from? Simple, says O'Neill: “There are also 16 NRL teams with players with the required skills. We are not without a reasonable pool from which to fish.”
Way to go, John. That's the way to win friends and influence people.
And thanks for the watered-down Foster's, mate.
One final note on the labyrinthine format for the Super 15: has anyone worked out what conference winners will do whilst the other teams “play four out of the five teams from the other two conferences”? Sit around? Entertain offers from Europe? Please set us straight if you think you know what it's all about – our modest minds are not up to the task of fathoming it out.
Danny Cipriani is on stand-by for the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
Danny Cipriani has failed to be named in a weakened England squad that features two makeshift fly-halves in the shape of Sam Vesty and Tom May.
Huh? Is he good or is he a bit rubbish?
Cipriani's performances in the last few rounds of the season were worthy of a reward rather higher than a pop at Ireland's third-string side at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, so what gives?
Okay, he might not be the most popular bloke and his private life might be fraught with distractions, but he remains a precocious talent – one that needs to nurtured.
England are past masters at extracting belief from exuberant youths by blowing both hot and cold – see Paul Sampson, Mathew Tait et al – and there is a real worry that Cipriani might yet join their number. It's time for Martin Johnson to put away the stick and pull out the carrots.
And whilst we are on this subject, what the heck has Charlie Hodgson done to deserve a complete blanking?
So it seems that Justin Harrison watches the Parliamentary Channel. Just moments after Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, fell on his sword, the former Australia lock chose to walk the plank on his own volition.
Bath Rugby revealed that the 35-year-old “asked to be