Why the days of the galactico are over

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

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Popular article! 5,898 reads

    Here is the recipe for today. First, take your basic ingredients: Bismarck du Plessis, Marcel van der Merwe, Juandré Kruger and Duane Vermeulen from South Africa, and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbé and Facundo Isa from Argentina.

    When they are available, add Bismarck’s brother Jannie, Samu Manoa and a generous spoonful of Georgian international forwards for extra flavour.

    Now add the icing on the cake: Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn and Jan Serfontein from the Republic, Aaron Cruden, Ma’a Nonu and Luke McAlister from New Zealand, and Jesse Mogg and Joe Tomane from Australia. Toss in Malakai Fekitoa and Bryan Habana if you have them in your cupboard.

    To finish, add some garnish from the Pacific Islands in the back three – Nemani Nadolo, Timoci Nagusa, Josua Tuisova and Semi Radradra.

    Bake for 35 minutes and there you have it – your first ‘galactico’ confection. You can expect instant success when you unveil it at your next dinner party!

    What do all the above Southern Hemisphere ‘names’ have in common? They were all in action for their two French clubs, Montpellier and Toulon, in the European Rugby Champions Cup (ERCC) over the weekend.

    The only hitch was the dinner party was not the unqualified celebration it was supposed to be. Montpellier were beaten by Leinster at home and are out of the competition; Toulon lost to the Scarlets in South West Wales and scraped through to the knockout stages as one of the best losers.

    Aled Davies celebrates a victory

    Aled Davies celebrates Scarlets’ win over Toulon. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

    With Montpellier currently sitting atop the French Top 14 league and Toulon having won three of the last five Champions Cup tournaments, it is unlikely that this is a conclusion their wealthy benefactors, Mourad Boudjellal and Mohed Altrad, would have envisaged when they ploughed their millions into the large-scale purchase of blue-chip Southern Hemisphere talent.

    The foreign imports in the squads of their conquerors, Leinster and Scarlets, are far more modest. In West Wales, two ex-Bulls forwards whose services were no longer required in Super Rugby (Werner Kruger and David Bulbring), an ex-Canterbury winger (Johnny McNicholl) and an Australian sevens player (Paul Asquith). In Dublin, it was ex-Maori and Chiefs wingman James Lowe, second-string Hurricanes scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, and Wallaby international Scott Fardy, although he wasn’t playing on Saturday.

    Of those players, only McNicholl and Fardy are nailed-on starters when everyone is fit and firing at their regions.

    When the English and French clubs held the (then) Heineken Cup to ransom back in 2014, it was with a view to furthering their own financial interests.

    In England, Premiership Rugby cut its own TV deal with BT Sports valued at £152m to include both domestic and European competition, Ligue Nationale de Rugby sold the European rights to BeIn sport in France, and between them, the clubs leveraged the right to organise the tournament themselves. Previously it had been run by the home unions.

    They also increased their own representation in the cup from 12 out of 24 to 12 out of 20, while reducing the number of qualifiers from the Celtic-based Pro 12 league.

    The tournament designed by the privately-owned English and French clubs was in essence protectionist, and in its first three years it achieved its aim. Ever since the takeover in 2014-2015, all three Champions Cup finals have been contested by English and French teams loaded with imported talent.

    But now it appears the hypnotic Anglo-French cycle of buying success is in real danger of being broken. Three of the four group winners in this year’s tournament who have earned themselves home ties in the quarter-finals of the Cup are from the Pro 14. Only one English side scraped qualification via the back door, and that is the current champion Saracens.

    All three of those Pro 14 teams are finding a way to win with an overwhelming base of home-grown talent and only minor additions from abroad.

    Only four of Leinster’s 44-man senior squad are not currently IQPs (Ireland-qualified players – 91 per cent), and captain Isa Nacewa has been living and playing in Ireland for so long he qualifies as an honorary Irishman in any case (93 per cent).

    At Scarlets, the ratio is 92 per cent, allowing for the return of international back-rower John Barclay to Scotland and second-rower Tadgh Beirne to Ireland at the start of next season. At Munster, all but one player in 44 are, or will become, an IQP (97 per cent).

    The last great ‘galactico’ squad in Wales folded its hand when entrepreneur Mick Cuddy stepped down as managing director of Ospreys in 2012. The squad he built included Southern Hemisphere luminaries like Jerry Collins, Justin Marshall, Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia, Stefan Terblanche and George Stowers as well as Northern Hemisphere stalwarts like Irish winger Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker of Scotland.

    Since the collapse of private ownership in Wales, those household names have been replaced by ‘no names’ like Kieron Fonotia, Jeff Hassler and Dmitri Arhip, and all but six of the regular playing squad are Welsh-qualified. The drain on Southern Hemisphere manpower, at least among the Celtic nations, is somewhere between minimal and non-existent.

    While Ireland offers a passable comparison to the super-efficient rugby ecosystem in New Zealand, Welsh rugby has been forced to go back to the future. It has experienced the traumatic failure of big private money and is now advancing beyond it. Its overseas choices tend to be few and far between and set well within tight budgetary constraints.

    Its selection of overseas coaches is shrewd. There are no big coaching galaticos in Wales, but there are coaches below that level, like Kiwi Wayne Pivac at Scarlets, who are conscious of their responsibility to return Welsh rugby to its roots.

    Ironically, Pivac preceded a galactico coach at the Auckland Blues back in the late 1990s, one Graham Henry, and now he is one of the positive forces at work dragging Welsh rugby out of the power-oriented Warren Gatland era. Alongside his influential assistant Stephen Jones – surely a Wales coach of the future – Pivac is helping engineer a return to a skill-based movement game, complete with breathless offloads and counter-attack from deep positions.

    It is here the fusion of the two hemispheres appears to work best – not in the acquisition of star coaches or players in whose abilities all your hopes and aspirations are invested (Graham Henry was hailed as the “Great Redeemer” when he arrived in Wales), but in the steady production and contracting of home-grown talent, alongside more humble background assistance from the men in the south.

    Perhaps the best illustration of this fusion at work occurred in the Round 5 ERCC encounter between English giants Bath and the Scarlets. Bath, coached by galactico New Zealander Todd Blackadder and his assistant Tabai Matson, were comprehensively undone by 35 points to 17 by a Scarlets side forced into an awkward late reshuffle in four backline positions, and missing some of their biggest names – including McNicholl and Lions man-of-the-series Jonathan Davies.

    This is our template – the sort of spectacular try of which Wales were capable in their glory days back in the 1970s

    In the early 70s, Wales were based around a nucleus of players from Llanelli (the core club for Scarlets) and London Welsh, so it is entirely appropriate that the counter-attack should be started by a London Welshman, Gerald Davies, and finished by the Scarlets maestro, outside-half Phil Bennett.

    Now, let’s take a look at two of the Scarlets’ efforts a couple of weeks ago. Their first try came from a kick fielded by fullback Rhys Patchell back on their own 22-metre line.

    The whole sequence lasted 50 seconds and featured 14 passes – including five by the forwards – and a massive seven offloads in contact. Here are some of the key moments:

    The start point is a realisation – an understanding that attacking from your end in an unstructured situation presents a real opportunity, regardless of position on the field. As the camera shot widens, it is evident that there are only three Bath backs defending half the width of the field if the Scarlets can move the ball towards the far side within their own 22.

    The defensive line-spacings are not easily manageable:

    There is too much daylight between Jonathan Joseph and Ben Tapuai (gap one) and Tapuai and Matt Banahan (gap two), so Llanelli centre Hadleigh Parkes can pick his spot – eventually he chooses gap one. But it is the original offload in contact from the kick receiver Rhys Patchell and the long pass by second row David Bulbring which got the ball there.

    In the second phase of the attack, forwards play an essential role in continuity. If they cannot pass and make decisions, the attack is dead in the water.

    In the clip, the other Scarlets second-rower, Tadhg Beirne, is acting halfback at the base and it is number six Aaron Shingler who spots the gap before offloading from the ground to Beirne’s second-row partner Bulbring. As a result of their actions, the tempo of the counter remains high and Bath don’t have a chance to reset their defence.

    When Parkes gets his hands out of the tackle for a second time in the movement, the player on the end of the offload is none other than Beirne himself.

    With Bath fullback Anthony Watson in front of him, instead of blundering straight into contact in time-honoured second-row tradition, Beirne produces a step off his right foot which is worthy of an outside back to add the finishing touch.

    It would be wrong to present this try as a one-off. The Scarlets maintained this level of attacking performance throughout the first half, even when they were down to 14 men on a yellow card.

    Their second try lasted for eleven phases and almost two minutes of possession with their number eight John Barclay off the field:

    As in the first score, the Scarlets look for every opportunity to avoid allowing the defence to reset around the stopping point represented by a ruck, popping the ball off the deck and moving it on swiftly in contact.

    The ball skills of their big men – Bulbring, Beirne and Shingler – are once again crucial to the tempo and continuity of play:

    When the finish comes, it is delivered with precise handling performed right on the advantage line:

    If the key Llanelli passer (no.15 Patchell) cannot attract the circled defender (Aled Brew), there will be no overlap to exploit on the touchline:

    Patchell has to fix Brew in place and take a step out of his ability to drift out, and he can only achieve his aim by taking the ball to the line and making the pass in the teeth of the defence:

    The success of teams from the Pro 14 in the pool stages of the European Champions Cup has given the lie to the story that you need Southern Hemisphere stars (either coaching or playing) in order to succeed.

    None of Leinster, Munster or the Scarlets have any big-name players or coaches from the Southern Hemisphere – except maybe for Scott Fardy, who was no longer wanted by the Wallabies.

    The Southerners in those regions are either absorbed as project players or fit around a firm policy of home growth. They provide a different IP but are there as much to learn about the game as they are to teach it – just ask James Lowe!

    This model represents the true, sensible future for rugby union in terms of co-operation between the hemispheres.

    It is no coincidence that the current Aviva Premiership champions, the Exeter Chiefs (the only club who are currently in the financial black in their league), also espouse a version of the same policy.

    There were only two Southern Hemisphere players (Nic White and Lachie Turner) in their regular match-day 23 for ERCC pool games.

    Organic, home-based growth is the only way forward for the game as a whole. Hopefully one of the Pro 14 sides will be able to nail that point to the mast indelibly by winning the whole thing when the tournament reaches its climax at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on 11 May.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (405)

    • January 24th 2018 @ 4:18am
      John said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:18am | ! Report

      Hi Nick, thanks as always.

      You’ve laid out what is happening but not why. So at Toulon, I wonder whether its as simple as they have the same amount of talent and paying the same for it, but without Wilkinson or Giteau they just haven’t taken off.

      Is it that simple?

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 4:35am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:35am | ! Report

        Hi John – I think there more teams in the market for the very highest level than there were in France (and in England for that matter) at the time Toulon won their championships. So the spread of that talent is wider than it was.

        But the underpinning reality is that squads that look underfunded in terms of top SH imports – La Rochelle in France, Scarlets in Wales, Leinster and Munster in Ireland, Glasgow in Scotland, Exeter in England – are the ones rising to the highest level. It’s an eye-opening lesson.

        Leinster have for example just completed the double over a Montpellier that has more stars in it… and I don’t think Montpellier presented us with the stiffest challenge in the group.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 11:33am
          Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          Nick, Toulon still have the talent however the coaching and onfield leadership is a shambles. When Toulon were successful they had several onfield leaders that had been captains of their previous side or had that opportunity at Toulon.

          Joe Van Niekerk
          Chris Masoe
          Guihelm Guirardo
          Jonny Wilkinson
          Matt Giteau
          Juan Smith
          Carl Hayman

          Then you had players like Bakkies Botha and George Smith.

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2018 @ 1:57pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

            I think you have an interesting point Bakkies.
            Especially Wilko and Giteau were – in my book – perfect “glue-players” that made everyone else better. And both of them were top class pros and who made sure the culture outside the paddock was healthy and hungry.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 3:38pm
            Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

            Throw in Fernandez Lobbe too.

            Toulon had a former test coach in Laporte who was a sticker for discipline. They don’t have that with their current coach. He was suspended for a few years by Montpellier and treated Shontayne Hape poorly (his article about that situation was horrific) and there are stories floating around in regards to Mike Ford’s departure from Bath.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 5:34pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

              Mike Ford is very good coach, but I don’t know whether he’s better as D o R or as a coach with someone else in charge!?

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 5:32pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

            I agree with the point about leadership Bakkies, however I don’t feel that Toulon have as much power and knowhow up front as they did, esp in the back five forwards. Plus they have a coach trying to get them to play a diff game to Laporte, where it was mostly about a positional squeeze and outstanding D 🙂

            • January 25th 2018 @ 3:17am
              Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:17am | ! Report

              That Toulon side wasn’t as powerful upfront as they should have been given their personnel. Particularly at set piece. Their scrum should have been far more dominant and their lineout was a shambles. I have seen more organised under 13s lineouts and they don’t lift at that age group.

              They didn’t blow a lot of teams off the pitch in big games and lost a Top 14 Final to Racing who had their scrumhalf sent off after 25 minutes with Imhoff covering for the majority of the time.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 11:39am
          AlisterS said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          I wonder if it’s about combinations. I think Ben Darwin has done a lot of work on the importance of combinations etc. Perhaps developing home ground talent has an advantage in that way. Generally, young players will be either playing with or against each other in local comps and representative games from about 12 years and higher. So players that have come up together through local and rep squads up to a national level will know each others games (and perhaps share a more consistent playing style) – unlike a 9-10-12 combination that may have a Kiwi, an Aussie and a South African (perhaps even from slightly different eras).

          In any case, a great article and I agree with the sentiment. For me as a fan I like to follow “local” players rather than “stars” from anywhere. Looking at the English Premiership for instance I lose all context. I am a proud NSWelshman but, because I played a lot of club rugby in Brisbane I began to follow my club mates so I watch the Reds with great interest (no its player’s sons etc). But I don’t really get the attraction of following a team of super stars and, for whatever reason, the rugby doesn’t seem to be any better. Maybe its a lack of tribalism or something but for me rugby was always about showing that your town or club was better than the others but if you have to pinch a whole heap of blokes from somewhere else and its just about greater purchasing power then I become divorced from it.

          At a national level it seems to be doing great damage not just to the nations that lose their players to France and England but also to the countries they go to that have less locals to pick from. England has obviously managed to avoid it but French national rugby looks to be badly impacted and a lot of teams are reliant to some degree on residency and ancestory benefits.

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 5:36pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

            I felt exactly the same way as you when I supported the Arsenal soccer team as a young boy Alister. When the people in it were guys I could identify with, I supported them. When it became a smorgasbord of foreign talent and they left Highbury esp, I found myself losing interest – though it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just drifted away.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 6:09pm
              Geoff Parkes said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

              Excellent illustrations. Obviously a major factor for Leinster and others on and off the field, and also a strong reason why we won’t see NZ Rugby agree to opening up Super rugby so that players can join clubs across countries and still be eligible for national selection.

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:30pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

                Here we go again GP 😉

                At least I got some courage from the interview with you in Stuff today when you said at the bone SH admins have no clue where the game is going and what to do long-term. At least I am in good company.

                I think most sports fans agree on that the perfect storm is to have a home-grown team with 3-4 star recruitments from abroad. Combine the best of both worlds.
                FC Barcelona during Guardiola’s time at the helm was the perfect example (and to this day no team has played better football than they did).

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 7:16pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

                Yep Barca, and Ajax before them…

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:05pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

                Yep. That Ajax team in the mid-90 was special. When they beat Milan in the CL-final 1995 I remember they played the game with nine players on the pitch that had been groomed in the Ajax academy (and seven out the nine players were under 22 years old). Does not get better than from a local fan perspective.

                The Bosman rule came at a terrible time for Ajax, they could have dominated European football for another 4-5 years otherwise.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:07pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

                Yes that rule did a lot to make money more important didn’t it?

              • January 25th 2018 @ 3:30am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:30am | ! Report

                Yes it did. Inevitable as enforcing transfer fees on off contract players was going to stop (was raised in the Senate Inquiry in to Australia Soccer in the mid 90s as heads did roll because of it) as it is a restraint of trade and against the principal of freedom of movement.

                However Soccer particularly UEFA did nothing to stop the micky being taken out of contracts (players being re-signed deliberately to make money out of a transfer), hefty release clauses (just look at Messi’s) and clubs running themselves under heavy debt. French and German leagues are far stricter on finance as they had too as clubs had financial issues. The German league as far as I know doesn’t allow sole ownership and the fans have to be allowed to purchase shares in their club.

                Financial Fair Play didn’t go far enough and is a toothless tiger to be frank.

            • January 25th 2018 @ 3:21am
              Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:21am | ! Report

              It was inevitable with Arsenal as there weren’t enough English players that had the same conditioning as the foreign players (in England at the time downing several pints at the pub was part of the warm down), the league was heading in that direction anyway and they had a long waiting list so they outgrew Highbury.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 8:48pm
            Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

            Absolutely agree. Rugby is about community, not showtime. Baabaas teams all over the place.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 9:24pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:24pm | ! Report

              In a nutshell, Tman.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 9:30pm
                Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

                Excellently put, both of you.

    • January 24th 2018 @ 4:37am
      Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:37am | ! Report

      Well for one if our guys are ‘failing’ then perhaps they’ll stop overpricing them. Going from the very tight structure of NZ rugby to the very casual French club scene on holiday mode probably isn’t going to get the best out of them, chasing trophies that they’ve never even thought of until they arrived in town.

      These guys are laughing all the way to the bank? and good on them.

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 4:45am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:45am | ! Report

        They are playing within structures that don’t benefit them Tman. Aaron Cruden is playing with a set of predominantly South African backs at Montpellier, Ma’a Nonu is usually partnered by Matthieu Bastareaud (not Conrad Smith) in the Toulon centres.

        It’s not the same as playing with team-mates all brought up to be on the same wavelength! Sometimes it’s easy to see their frustration (and Vern Cotter’s on the side-line for that matter)….

        • January 25th 2018 @ 3:36am
          Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:36am | ! Report

          ‘They are playing within structures that don’t benefit them Tman. Aaron Cruden is playing with a set of predominantly South African backs at Montpellier, Ma’a Nonu is usually partnered by Matthieu Bastareaud (not Conrad Smith) in the Toulon centres.’

          Shouldn’t be too much of an issue as good players adapt. Toulon had a French half back (a lot of them back then were meerkats), English fly half in Wilko, Giteau at 12 (often played at 10 so they picked Mermoz at 12) partnered with a French centre and a back three consisting of combinations coming from Fiji (Tuisova), France (Palisson), SA (Habana), Australia (Mitchell) and England (Delon Armitage).

          Didn’t take long for Feikitoa to start performing. He provides a balance to their attack with his footwork.

          • Columnist

            January 25th 2018 @ 8:22am
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

            Having studied Montpellier extensively in the build-up to the ERCC group games I would say there have been definite problems blending a successful midfield out of the people they have available. Serfontein/Steyn and Nonu/Bastareaud are in no sense balanced partnerships, so the sum of the whole is less than its individual parts in both Toulon and Montpellier.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 10:28am
        Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        They didnt go for the rugby Nick…They went for the $$$…and Im sure they are getting the $$$ by playing at 80% of their ability…..Rugby gains very little by having teams full of guys playing for money as even tho they would be paid where ever they play I’m sure someone like Cruden would be caring about results more if playing for the Chiefs and the ABs than playing for a team he has never bothered with prior to signing.

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2018 @ 12:24pm
          Rugby Fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Players do move for money and, if they can’t see a way to achieve significant sporting goals, then their effort can drop off. Carlos Tevez in Chinese football is a high profile example.

          What made Toulon different for a few years, is that the competitive instincts of those top players kicked in when they realized they could win trophies. A lot of the pros there said they were influenced by the insane work ethic of Jonny Wilkinson. Also, Wilkinson learned French and the Armitage brothers already spoke it, so there was more communication within the squad than at other international club teams in France.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 4:02pm
          Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

          and to think they still get peanuts compared to footy boys.

          Manchester United have completed signing of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal on deal worth £600,000 a WEEK !!! after a protracted tussle with Man City.

          am sure by the time January window closes, a few new records will be set re: player salaries and transfer fees , not forgetting agents’ commissions ?

          then u had someone like Giteau , whose whole contract was like £600,000 !!!

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 5:43pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

            The diff in money is staggering isn’t it CUW? My local soccer team Swansea have gotten into their fourth manager in the last two years, so desperate are they to stay in the Prem!

            • January 24th 2018 @ 5:52pm
              Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

              the ability for some of these clubs to self-generate cash is really amazing.

              some time back i read that Man U generate like 25% of their income from sale of items.

              but on the other side , ticket prices are still a concern and ofcourse debt of these clubs is something to look at in deep.

              Chelsea are planning a new stadium costing GBP one billion !!!!!!!!!

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 6:54pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

                Yes I think about 80% of the seats for Swans home games are season ticket holders in a stadium that holds a (modest) 23K, Ospreys are lucky if they can attract 8-9K.

        • Columnist

          January 24th 2018 @ 5:41pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

          In a sense, that’s just professionalism Jacko – guys move between teams that are oathsworn enemies without a blink – like Rob Simmons going from the Reds to the Tahs, or Sol Campbell moving from Tottenham to Arsenal…

          I think they enjoy the change of lifestyle too. Graham Henry once told me that Crl Hayman was the trimmest and fittest he’d ever seen him in Toulon, so that plays a part. But ultimately, I think Vern Cotter will probably have to have a big clearout before he begins to get what he really wants at Montpellier, and he may introduce more local players into the side to get the culture he wants.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 3:41am
            Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:41am | ! Report

            ‘In a sense, that’s just professionalism Jacko – guys move between teams that are oathsworn enemies without a blink – like Rob Simmons going from the Reds to the Tahs, or Sol Campbell moving from Tottenham to Arsenal…’

            Yep though you did get managers like Ferguson who refused to sell players to major rivals like Leeds United and Liverpool. Can’t recall him selling many players to Arsenal. He was happy to buy players from those clubs though. Alan Smith and Rio Ferdinand when Leeds were good. Robin van Persie when he was Arsenal captain. Michael Owen Liverpool via Newcastle United and Real Madrid.

            • Columnist

              January 25th 2018 @ 6:55pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

              Ofc there was the infamous Carlos Tevez transfer from United to City 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                January 25th 2018 @ 8:12pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

                We also have Luis Figo’s transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid. I was at Nou Camp for his first match with Real Madrid and the atmosphere was filled to the limit with hate. Every time Figo even came near the stands he was bombarded with insults, beers, cell phones (hundreds of them), lighters (thousands), coins, and even a pig head (how did they get a pig head inside the stadium?).

                That transfer also started the whole Galactico-era in Madrid.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 8:14pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

                Thanks NV – the whole Sol Campbell affair in North London was very similar. A lot of racial and cultural animosity in the background, all suddenly came into a very sharp focus…

              • Roar Guru

                January 25th 2018 @ 9:31pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

                Yep, the Sol Campbell transfer stirred up some pretty ugly behavior.

                Was it not Mo Johnston that switched between Celtic and Rangers in the 90’s? I recall that played out very very ugly also.

                Even my little peaceful home country up north has had similar “affairs”. Or domestic football league is low on quality but full of rivalry and passion (and outright hate between some parties).

    • Roar Guru

      January 24th 2018 @ 4:52am
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:52am | ! Report

      Good evening NB.

      Having a slight case of insomnia down in Thailand and have tried to cure it with documentaries about Kim Philby and Winston Churchill (gotta learn to pick less interesting “subjects” when the aim is to sleep). And on top of that, I find your new weekly piece (and I had a strong hunch you would write about Scarlets in some form, and you did not disappoint at all).

      Scarlets is a real revelation and their rise from “low-mid-table-land” is a thing of beauty. Let’s not forget they won the Pro12/14 last year after beating both Irish giants (away) in the playoffs. And they beat them in style. They are an absolute joy to watch.
      Bar the All Blacks is Scarlets the only team I have seen that can hammer opponents even with a guy in the sin-bin. Almost looks like they try even harder to attack and throw the pill around when down a man.

      But short-term I can see that Scarlets success can be a potential ill-smelling bomb, hence how is Gatland gonna use this “new capital” in Welsh rugby? He could build on Scarlets foundation (and selections) and just spice it up with a couple of top names from other clubs/regions. That might not be enough to win the 6N, but it would guarantee good, positive and spirited rugby, and that is the tonic I believe that Wales rugby needs more than anything right now. But I seriously doubt that Gatland will build on this, but I wonder what your thoughts are on this matter?

      Overall I gotta say that the last two rounds of the Champions Cup were brilliant. Almost all the teams were still in contention (14 of 20 teams had a shot at a QF spot on the last day) and the quality of the rugby has been great.
      The QF matchup between Leinster and Saracens is as good as it gets. Can’t remember the last time I was so excited – 10 weeks in advance – for a non-Test.

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 5:12am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:12am | ! Report

        WG showed some tactical flexibility in the Lions series that most did not expect NV… They thought he’d turn up with ‘Warrenball’ and that would be that, but it didn’t turn out that way – especially after he selected a team for the second Test that I’d foreseen (mostly!) as the Lions best combination many months before https://www.therugbysite.com/blog/news-opinions/have-england-lost-their-majority-vote-on-the-lions-trip-to-new-zealand

        I think Wales will try to expand their play in the 6N but they are behind both Ireland and Scotland in their development (not to mention England).

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2018 @ 2:20pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

          It is a tricky one. True that the Lions did not play the style of rugby most people expected before the tour, but the main changes ahead of the second Test was mainly player-driven (as far as I know). And Gats blew the first Test with some iffy pre-Test preparation. His selection of AWJ and Kruis for the first Test (and O’Mahoney as captain) were mind-blowing considering the form Itoje, Lawes and Henderson showed at the time.

          As I remember it, you and I had several discussions – months ahead of the tour – about Lions selections and playing style. And we both were pretty bang on in hindsight (and we both took some serious heat here at the Roar for daring to question the foregone conclusion of a three-zip blackwash).

          • January 24th 2018 @ 2:27pm
            Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

            I wonder how many Kiwis you will have riled up with that comment, neutral.

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2018 @ 2:44pm
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

              That was not my intention Fionn, but I do see your point 😉

              Jacko might come around and tell us all about the French refs again (and again and again and again) who dared to change one wrong call, but to be fair, a very clear majority of the regular Kiwi-Roarers seems to slowly come to terms that it was a great tour and that Lions played some really good rugby and deserved a drawn series.
              And my “best mate” here at the Roar – Tman – has actually been a class act when discussing the Lions tour after it was all done and settled.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 2:46pm
                Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

                Haha! 😛

              • January 24th 2018 @ 5:02pm
                Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

                It was the French refs Neutral

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 5:44pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:44pm | ! Report


                Of course, it was the French refs. But not only that. The French refs were only a part of a big conspiracy against NZ, backed by the Anti-Kiwi Boys (AKB) at World Rugby.
                The two World Cup trophies the AB’s won in 2011 and 2015 could only happen because the AKB at World Rugby was somehow busy doing something else (rumors says that the ref misunderstood the instructions before the WC final 2011 and helped the AB’s instead of destroying them and 2015 edition of the AB’s was just too good, not even the refs could beat them). But now AKB are back on track putting in their full effort with the aim to destroy NZ rugby in every possible way. So expect a lost Test series against France in June and hammering against England and Ireland in November.

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 5:45pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

            Yes, I don’t know the dynamics of selection before the second Test, esp in respect of the choices at 10 and 12, but radical decisions had to be made and it would be interesting to know who drove them 😀

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2018 @ 6:40pm
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

              Somehow I think you are in the know what happened between the first and second Test. You simply know and work together with too many players and coaches that were involved in the Lions last summer. But obviously, I understand that this is not the forum to “kiss and tell”.

        • January 25th 2018 @ 3:43am
          Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:43am | ! Report

          Nick he started to make selection changes in the AIs to suggest he is moving away from Cementball.

          • Columnist

            January 25th 2018 @ 8:18am
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

            According to my research the change was set in motion on Wales’ 2016 summer tour to NZ, then fell back without WG’s involvement in the next couple of Welsh campaigns.

        • January 25th 2018 @ 10:34am
          AlisterS said | January 25th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          I wonder if there will be special significance for the team finishing last in the NZ conference in 2019 knowing that WG is returning home and looking for a job??

      • January 24th 2018 @ 10:06am
        Council said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Ohhh Kim Philby? My grandad gave me two books on him. Utterly fascinating!

        Amazing the work that he did, working his way up like he did only to be undone by the most harmless of things.

        You are a bit of a history buff Sweden?

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2018 @ 2:31pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          I am very much a history buff, with an almost unhealthy interest in all things connected to the Cold War.

          The documentary I saw about Philby last night was a pretty good one with lots of new insights and knowledge, hence it is a Russian produced documentary and they interviewed several of his old minders and bosses from KGB (NKVD). They – obviously – had a little more rosy memories of Philby than his former colleagues at SIS and CIA.

    • January 24th 2018 @ 4:55am
      MH said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:55am | ! Report

      Bit confused here – you don’t count someone like Parkes as a SH import

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 5:06am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:06am | ! Report

        No MH, he’s served his time as a ‘resident’ in Wales and he wasn’t a top NZ player when he left. On top of that, I don’t think he’ll be starting in the Scarlets midfield once Davies gets back from injury…

        • January 24th 2018 @ 5:26am
          Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:26am | ! Report

          Think your splitting hairs with that sort of thing Nick. He left as a rugby professional. He’s playing to a level that is still keeping potential local professionals out of the squad.

          So in terms of his representing local rugby that’s hardly the case. It just makes your numbers look better. He was a pro, still is, what’s changed?

          Same with Nacewa, he was definitely All black material and wanted that but had unwisely played one early test for Fiji which ruled him out. And he could have been a great All Black.

          He was born in Auckland, attended Auckland grammar and llearned his craft and starred for the Blues.

          No way you can call him a local, no matter how it’s dressed up or how honorourary you want to make it. Northern rugby is not capable of easily producing players like Nacewa. They’d be a dime a dozen here at the time, though Nacewa was particularly good.

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 5:50am
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:50am | ! Report

            Parkes was a journeyman when he left Tman- he’d jogged around between the Blues, the Canes and the Eastern Prov Kings. He went to Wales at the invitation of Wayne Pivac when he took up his coaching role at Scarlets.

            – And sorry to disappoint, but Wales need all the decent guys they can get to populate their four pro teams, so he’s not keeping anyone out of the squad! I doubt Parkes is really Test class despite his excellent performance so far, but he adds something at regional level for sure.

            Nacewa has been in Ireland since 2008 so it doesn’t need dressing up – he’s played more than two thirds of his pro career in the NH and he chose not to play any more matches for Fiji when invited to do so by voluntary choice.

            The point is that both Parkes and Nacewa have gone North because they weren’t really needed down South – Nacewa because he’d already played that one Test for Fiji back in 2003 and Parkes because he was a fringe player without a guaranteed SR contract in New Zealand.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 7:19am
              taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:19am | ! Report

              Yes agree with all that but as Oliver did you are still painting a picture that the ‘south’ isnt so effective by dressing the numbers.

              That is the very gist of your article. The fact that the home unions based clubs have lesser ‘imports’ by absorbing them into the local numbers doesn’t wash. With me anyway, and I know I’m probably one of the more outspoken on the topic around here so don’t expect to be agreed with.

              I’m not sure a few results represents the ‘end’ of anything either. If anything, based on the higher quality AB’s leaving it will probably get even more imposing, if as you say, they are allowed to play in a way in which they can excel. The french sides are almost wider Lions versions where theres a much wider style of play being blended. Cotter hasnt been at Montpellier long but I can see his side getting better.

              Anyway, saw a short vid of OGara starting with the Crusaders training camp and he looks pretty excited so be interesting what his take will be as he’s with a fairly good side with a very strong rugby culture. Its rare we get a northern insight to our rugby…for obvious reasons…

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 7:58am
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

                The fact that the home unions based clubs have lesser ‘imports’ by absorbing them into the local numbers doesn’t wash.

                Well, I feel that the fact that SH numbers are diminishing in the Celtic nations, and that most of the players involved are not required at the higher levels in their own countries in any case, are clearly the two most pertinent factors.

                Those are facts not window-dressing, the window-dressing lies in the belief that somehow all European countries behave the same way in their approach to SH players.

                They don’t, and there’s a a very obvious diff between the attitude of private ownership in England and France, and the Celtic clubs who are very much part of the national pyramid (as in NZ) 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:51am
                Derm McCrum said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

                The numbers are lower overall, Tman as you well know since I’ve published the figures here previously.

                That’s a fact whether you agree with it or not.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 10:32am
                Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

                Yes but the quality is higher, that’s also a fact. Faumuina, Cruden, sapoaga?

                Three certain AB squad members. Since 2015 the quality has increased dramatically so perhaps the cost is driving those numbers down.

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 12:22pm
                Derm McCrum said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                What?! Those players don’t play in any of the Celtic nations. The point Nic is making as I did previous in the North/South discussion is that there’s less SANZAR players in those teams who have been more successful in the European Cup. He’s not dressing the numbers.

                Factually, there are less import players. And even less in the match-day squads.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 1:42pm
                taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

                I’m not concerned with where they play, they aint here. And I’ve doubts that the French sides with more imports run has ‘ended’.

                Haynes and especially Nacewa is dressing up, no matter how you sugar coat it. They came through to the NZ system and became professionals so were bought off the shelf.

                Anyone in that position is an import in my books, because no one locally is considered good enough over that entire period to have a pro rugby career instead of them.

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 1:54pm
                Wal said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

                I sit in both camps on this one,

                The Pro 14 is awash with Players who grew up or developed their rugby in the SH
                JUst looking at NZ based/born players….

                Jonny McNichol a case and point, he was certainly on he AB radar before heading north an with injuries this year may well have gotten a chance to prove himself for the ABs.
                Canterbury certainly needed him prior to 2017, Likewise Sean Maitland.
                Auckland and would love to have Nacewa this year.

                Just because they may not make the AB’s it doesn’t mean their provinces wouldn’t be the better for keeping them. Looking at it that way the list gets pretty comprehensive.

                Robbie Fruen
                Nasi Manu
                Pita Ahki
                Leila Masga
                James Lowe
                Have all joined the pro 14 this year

                Add to Existing players
                Gareth Anscombe
                Tyler Bleyendaal
                Bundee Aki
                Brendon Leonard
                Charles Piutau
                Jared Payne
                Rodney Ah You

                Regardless of whether these players have become home union eligible or would ever have made the AB’s, every one of them leaving has made the SH weaker and the NH stronger.

                The last 2 player of the year awards were NZ raised players,

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 2:58pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Certainly, agree that Nacewa is pure class. It is a bloody tragedy that we did not get to see him in the Test arena.
                Anyone have any idea why he never played for Fiji again?

                With the team, Fiji will able to field in Japan 2019 (combined with proper preparation time and a very good head coach) they could do some series damage to Wallabies and Wales. And if Nacewa was on the team (and preferably captained the side also), they would be even more dangerous.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 6:01pm
                Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                Nacewa was awesome for Auckland and when you had Howlett, rocko, rupeni caucau, necewa, Carlos spencer, Joel vidiri the Blues were off the planet in the backline.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 8:48pm
                Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

                very old blues like 10 years ago (S14(

                John Afoa (Auckland), Ben Atiga (Auckland), Sam Biddles ‘ ‘ (Waikato), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Daniel Braid (Auckland), Justin Collins (Auckland), Steve Devine (Auckland), Troy Flavell (Auckland), David Gibson (Auckland), Chris Heard ‘ (Auckland), David Holwell (Northland) Doug Howlett (Auckland), Jerome Kaino ‘ (Auckland), Luke McAlister (North Harbour), Angus Macdonald (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Isa Nacewa (Auckland), George Pisi (North Harbour), Greg Rawlinson (North Harbour), Josevata Rokocoko (Auckland), James Somerset ‘ (Auckland), Saimone Taumoepeau (Auckland), Isaia Toeava (Auckland), Onosa’i Tololima-Auva’a ‘ (Auckland), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Sam Tuitupou (Auckland), Nick White (Auckland), Ali Williams (Auckland), Nick Williams (North Harbour), Derren Witcombe ‘ (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Rudi Wulf ‘ (North Harbour).

              • Roar Guru

                January 26th 2018 @ 2:21pm
                Derm McCrum said | January 26th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                The discussion is not about the number of SH-born players in the various clubs. There’s about 75 total across the 12 teams in the PRO14. It’s about the number of high-quality SH imports at the various clubs.

                My personal view of the current ones in Ireland this season would be:

                Low quality
                Rodney Ah You, Jean Deysel, Schalk van der Merwe, Stacy Ili, Coetzee, Jake Heenan, Sean Reidy, Robbie Diack, Dom Robertson McCoy, Wiehahn Herbst, Jarred Butler, Naulia Dawai, Andrew Deegan, Grobler. Ulster 7, Munster 1, Connacht 6

                Quinn Roux, Richard Strauss, Michael Bent, Pita Ahki, Tom McCartney, Tyler Bleyendaal, Gibson Park, Rhys Marshall, Chris Cloete, Rob Herring, James Lowe, Finlay Bealham, Piutau, Taute, Louis Ludik. Ulster 3, Connacht 4, Leinster 4, Munster 4

                High quality/exceptional players
                Isa Nacewa, Scott Fardy, Bundee Aki, CJ Stander – Leinster 2, Munster 1, Connacht 1

                Connacht 11, Ulster 10
                Munster 6, Leinster 6

                On the other hand, my selection for
                Would die for the team in the trenches
                Nacewa – Fiji
                Fardy – Aus
                Stander – Residency
                Aki – Residency
                Taute SA
                Strauss – Residency
                Bent – grandparents
                Bealham – grandparents
                McCartney uncapped
                Bleyendaal uncapped
                Marshall uncapped

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 5:54pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

              To Wal (below)

              As far as I know, Johnny McNicholl was not on the AB radar and Seasn Maitland plays his club rugby in England. Robbie Fruean is all washed up because of injury and has played only a handful of games in two years and Masaga’s best years are well behind him, Nasi Manu is in Italy not one of the Celtic clubs…

              Most of the others you mention made a choice to leave NZ and qualify for Ireland via residency, which they are entitled to do. Their aim was to play international rugby rather than chase the dollar.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 7:51am
                Bluesfan said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

                By leaving NZ – those players were giving up the AB Dream etc. So by qualifying for the likes of Ireland or Wales means extra income for the players.

                Just as an example is H.Parkes – very average player in NZ system and was very much a journeymen player and shopped around for a Super Franchise/Home.

                He moves to Wales, bang on three years qualifies for Wales and on the day that he meets residency requirement, he is playing for Wales and I’m assuming getting paid a very tidy sum from the WRU for representing Wales.

                Do you think H.Parkes feels Welsh? One would assume not – out of his 30 something years, he has lived a sum total of 3 years in Wales – but good luck to him, rugby is a short term career, he was never going to make the AB’s and in his professional career he has to maximize his earnings.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 6:58pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

                Doubt Parkes feels very Welsh, though I do think Sean Maitland feels Scottish BF!

              • January 26th 2018 @ 6:07am
                Bluesfan said | January 26th 2018 @ 6:07am | ! Report

                Ah that’s Sean Maitland who:

                1. Plays for Saracens in the English Premiership.
                2. Represented NZ in U20.
                3. Is not only of Scottish Descent – but is also part Maori.
                4. Actually represented NZ Maori.
                5. His Scottish Descent – is via his Grandparent who migrated to NZ in the 1960’s! So not even via his Mum or Dad.

                So guess he feels Scottish – but all I would note is that he doesn’t even live there, his ties to the country seem very tenuous and he first represented NZ & NZ Maori – If he feels so Scottish – why didn’t he represent them at age group level?

                Again it’s professional rugby and people need to maximize income – but it Scotland want to select “Kilted Kiwis” e.g People like Brendan Laney/John Hardie/Sean Maitland – people who literally fly into Scotland and are then selected to represent their national team. Will the only country/team who it devalues is Scotland.

              • Columnist

                January 26th 2018 @ 8:39am
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 26th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

                So guess he feels Scottish – but all I would note is that he doesn’t even live there, his ties to the country seem very tenuous and he first represented NZ & NZ Maori – If he feels so Scottish – why didn’t he represent them at age group level?

                Does that apply to Sekope Kepu as well?

                Kepu is a Tongan by ethnic origin, who grew up in Auckland and represented all the NZ age group sides up to under 21’s. He didn’t move back to Sydney (his place of birth) until he was 21. Does that mean he didn’t have the right to choose Australia?

                There is a a huge amount of social mobility nowadays, from which New Zealand sometimes benefits, and at other times loses out.

                Will the only country/team who it devalues is Scotland.

                Who says this? Did the fact that Frank Bunce and Alama Ieremia and Stephen Bachop played for both Samoa and the All Blacks somehow devalue their careers? I doubt it.

              • January 26th 2018 @ 10:30am
                Taylorman said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

                The difference between representing Samoa and NZ and NZ and Scotland is Samoa and NZ have very close ties in life in general. They speak Samoan widely in NZ, Bunce and Ieremia will have many family members in both countries. Maitlands link to Scotland was through a paper chase, an obscure rule being applied where there was otherwise no commonality other than being human, speaking English and playing rugby.
                I doubt very much there were a hoard of Maitlands wailing at Glasgow airport to greet their long lost son.
                For me a players origin is that point at which the environment they play in moved them from being an amateur to being a professional.
                That’s why Maitland, Nacewa, Haynes will always be imports. Even where you’re born is irrelevant.
                If a country’s rugby moved you from amateur to pro then that’s where your from in a rugby sense. All the rest is just semantics and red herrings.
                Had Nacewa moved to England when he was five there’s no chance he would have become the player he is now.
                The Auckland and Blues game him the environment to excel in.
                All he would have experienced in England would have been unfamiliarity and barriers as a rugby player.

              • January 26th 2018 @ 10:11am
                Bluesfan said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

                Firstly how you can compare NZ/Oz immigration vs. Scotland? Where about 5+% of NZ’s population is currently living in Australia – so yea I’m not surprised he is playing for Oz – feel free to include Curtis Rona – born NZ, Maori descent and represented the Junior Kiwis in League and now playing for Wallabies/Waratahs.

                How about Quade Cooper, let’s throw in some Karmichael? On the NZ side – Tyron Lomax – born in Oz, represented Oz U20 but of Maori descent and with a Dad who played for NZ League team and is now going to play for the Highlanders and potentially the AB’s.

                As for Bunce and Bachop representing Samoa – Pacific Islands are around 9% of NZ’s population – so I have zero issue with players representing Samoa and NZ- Samoans are part and parcel of NZ’s culture. Personally I would support ex AB’s who are of Tongan/Samoan descent to be allowed to represent their countries/cultures after a stand-down period of 3-5 years.

                All these players you mentioned are 1st generation/have lived in countries as kids- so how you can compare them to people who literally fly 18,000 K’s to represent countries that they had never lived in or had zero/non existent ties – is disingenuous to say at best.

                When you have National Unions trawling the world looking for people who might potentially qualify to play for their national team due to descent – yea that’s sad.

                It’s not social mobility we are talking about here – it’s the direct targeting of adult professional players by professional unions who are looking to pad out their national teams with players who can represent them by via the descent rule. Grannygate anyone?

              • Roar Guru

                January 26th 2018 @ 2:39pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 26th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                Grannygate wasn’t just a demand issue, it was a supply one too, Players were fast and loose with the truth about their origins because they wanted to play Test rugby. It wasn’t a question of needing to hunt them down, and badger them to play.

                It’s not just a South -> North issue, either. Welsh captain Sam Warburton has English parents; Rhys Ruddock is son of the former Wales head coach Mike Ruddock, and he plays for Ireland; Ian Botham’s son, Liam, nearly got a senior cap for England but his son, Jim Botham plays for the Welsh Sevens side. England have named Gary Graham to their Six Nations squad, and he’s the son of former Scottish prop George Graham, and played at U20 level for Scotland. Lock Tony Copsey famously has a “Made in England” tattoo but couldn’t be prouder to have turned out for Wales.

                There are plenty of such example in the past, plenty now, and will be more in the future. New Zealand didn’t need family or culture links when they capped English/Irish John Gallagher, or English Jamie Salmon. It wasn’t a problem either, when the NZRU named Martin Johnson to the All Black U-21 side, and wanted him to stay for to try for the senior side.

              • January 26th 2018 @ 4:52pm
                Bluesfan said | January 26th 2018 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

                John Gallagher/Jamie Salmon – please – these example are based in amateur rugby days – what is the relevance to the professional age, where people earn $$ playing for a country e.g. incentivized to play for another countries team?

                Grannygate is a black mark on for Welsh Rugby – reflecting a whatever it takes approach to become competitive – not surprising when Wales lose a match in 1996 by 90 points to SA.

                That you somehow say that because the players volunteered to play for Wales – somehow divests the WRU of the responsibility of checking the eligibility of players who wanted to represent their country? Right – whatever it takes to win!

              • Roar Guru

                January 26th 2018 @ 10:17pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

                I don’t absolve the WRU of any responsibility. It is, as you say, a black mark for them. They didn’t go chasing after Shane Howarth to New Zealand though, he’d already moved to England to play for Sale.

                The reason Gallagher, Salmon and Johnson are relevant, is that it demonstrates the NZRU has no qualms about using the incentives it has to hand when they can. There’s no New Zealand general knowledge test needed to get selected for the All Blacks. Malakai Fekitoa was under consideration for the All Black sevens squad for Rio but it turned out he’d have needed a special citizenship dispensation. Likewise, Waisake Naholo and David Raikuna both had to be left out of Olympic qualification rounds because they only had Fiji passports.

              • Columnist

                January 26th 2018 @ 6:40pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 26th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

                To Tman (below)

                Maitlands link to Scotland was through a paper chase, an obscure rule being applied where there was otherwise no commonality other than being human, speaking English and playing rugby.

                Why should grand-parentage not be a defining point in the law? If not, where should it be?

                Do you really know what Sean Maitland’s ‘felt’ connection to Scotland is? – no, you don’t.

                The point is that the majority of players clearly feel comfortable playing for more than one country (including the Bachops – one of whom also represented Japan – Bunce Tuigamala etc) regardless of the perceived connection to that country by an outsider.

                Mako Vunipola was born in Wellington and had a choice to play for New Zealand, Wales, England or Tonga (to the best of my knowledge) – and there are probably hundreds of elite players around the world like him, all with multiple qualifications. He would also probably be the number one choice in whichever country he chose to represent. Ditto Kepu with Australia/NZ.

                Players get to choose who they want to represent within the set parameters.

                Scotland are entirely within the rules to qualify players by grand-parentage because that is where the line has been drawn by law – he has not been somehow ‘stolen’ by the nefarious NH with its cunning plots.

              • January 26th 2018 @ 10:10pm
                Fin said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

                Hi Nick,
                Thought you might be interested in this:

                James O’Connor was born in Australia on the Gold Coast. He lived in Auckland for five years as a child attending Rutherford Primary School. Until the age of eleven when he returned to Australia with his family.

                O’Connor’s parents are from New Zealand, and his maternal grandparents from South Africa. This, along with his Australian birth, meant he was eligible for all three Tri Nations teams. However, his decision to play for the Wallabies, and debut in 2008, meant he became ineligible to play for the All Blacks or Springboks.

              • Columnist

                January 26th 2018 @ 11:57pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 26th 2018 @ 11:57pm | ! Report

                Thanks Fin, another very good example of multiple qualification, and not an uncommon one at all!

              • January 27th 2018 @ 5:44am
                Bluesfan said | January 27th 2018 @ 5:44am | ! Report

                “The reason Gallagher, Salmon and Johnson are relevant, is that it demonstrates the NZRU has no qualms about using the incentives it has to hand when they can. ”

                These players were playing in the Amatuer era – why not bring up Des O’Connor as well?

                How you use players from an age (Salmon capped in 1981 – 37 years ago) where they use to rock up 4 days before a test match and then compare to a professional environment e.g. they get paid to play, is beyond me.

                As for Fekotia, Naholo and Raikuna – well when 10% of your population are of Island descent – this will occur. If I recall Quade Cooper had a similar problem as he travelled on a NZ Passport.

                However last time I noticed, NZ were not recruiting Adult Professional Players, who already had a professional career in another country and then asked them to move 18,000 K’s and then with tenuous links to represent their country.

                Of course there is a very simple way to stop this and negate all arguments and that is for NZ, Australian and SA to simply make their U20 sides their 2nd National team and thus any players who represent their countries respectively at that level, can then only represent them forever.

                However if this did occur – it would devastate the Tonga and Samoan teams in particular and the ethics of ring fencing 20 year old kids is extremely questionable.

              • Roar Guru

                January 27th 2018 @ 12:58pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 27th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

                The reason to go back to Gallagher/Salmon/Johnson, is that’s the last time New Zealand could make competitive offers to players of international quality in the North. Gallagher was on a break before joining the Met Police in London. First of all, his club chairman, Don Bond, arranged his visa. Quite easy for him to do, since he was Director of New Zealand Immigration Services. Then, for good measure, NZRU contacts lined him up with a police job in New Zealand.

                Johnson was one of several schoolboy rugby stars approached to go to New Zealand. A job was arranged for him too, when he looked like a handy prospect.

                That all sounds good to me.That’s the way rugby used to work as a community.

                Professionalism means a visa, and a job to pay the rent won’t wash any more. Also, with limited resources, the NZRU has an allocation challenge. At the last World Cup, a fair few members of the Tongan, Fijian and Samoan squads had played their first serious rugby in New Zealand. Few, however, were playing in NZ by the time the Cup came round: something like 76 were playing professional rugby in the North.

                Almost every Pacific islander who qualifies for New Zealand wants to play for the All Blacks. Aside from the honour, and vindication, the financial rewards of a NZRU contract are significant. However, players who just aren’t going to make it, often still want a taste of international rugby, so they declare for one of the island teams.

                Could professional rugby in New Zealand give a living to 76 players who no longer qualified for the All Blacks? I’m not even talking about matching offers in the North, just offering ordinary local rates to these players at the appropriate level. It wouldn’t work, because professional rugby resources in New Zealand are ultimately all geared towards the national side.

                I have a lot of sympathy with Southern hemisphere sides who can’t plan as efficiently now because so much of the talent now plays overseas. However, I have no sympathy for anyone who wants to claim New Zealand occupy some moral high ground on the issue. I also have no sympathy for any demands to change this situation to suit New Zealand, without addressing how to grow the game internationally, to ensure that more players from more countries can enjoy professional careers.

              • January 28th 2018 @ 4:42pm
                Bluesfan said | January 28th 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                So let me understand this – John Gallagher just rocks up and becomes a NZ Police constable – did he even have to undergo training or did he just get put out on the streets of Wellington?

                I didn’t realize that the NZ Rugby Union obviously had professional scouts in the UK in the early 80’s identifying UK rugby talent and then sending them down to NZ – amazing that really especially considering that the game was amatuer and thus no financial inducements could be introduced.

                Your comment: “Almost every Pacific islander who qualifies for New Zealand wants to play for the All Blacks.”

                I guess that means those people who are NZ born citizens or who arrived here as school children? Generally people who are born in a country normally want to represent their country of birth.

                NZ does not hold high moral ground, neither does Oz or SA – however when you have issues like the below arising

                1. Grannygate
                2. Situations where player state that they would prefer to play for another national team (Denny Solomona – NZ or Samoa, Nathan Hughes – Fiji, Uini Atonio -NZ),
                3. Scottish National Squad composed of 20-30% of players qualified via a 3 year residency requirement or grandparent rule,
                4. Irish Rugby having “Project Players”- attracting foreign talent to represent Ireland on the rugby field basis $.

                Rugby is now facing a situation where unions are effectively saying that if i can’t produce the talent, I will just go and buy it and is that what you want to see on a rugby field representing your nation?

                Do you want:

                A team that represents their country/Culture e.g. AB’s with their blend of Polynesian/European heritage representing NZ, SA representing multiple races – African/Dutch/English heritage etc.


                A team that is filled out with foreign players with little or no links into that country and are purely playing as they are looking to maximize their income as professional rugby players e.g. Project Players

                I know which team I would prefer to represent my nation on the rugby field.

              • Roar Guru

                January 31st 2018 @ 2:49pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 31st 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

                Gallagher had been accepted into the Metropolitan Police back in London and went out to New Zealand before his contract started to fill in a few months (he only had a 3 month tourist visa). A teammate in England had played for Oriental Rongotai, and knew they needed a kicking full-back. There was no system of scouts, just word of mouth. Similarly, New Zealand clubs were alerted to Martin Johnson’s age group when they were successful in a schoolboy tournament in Australia.

                Don Bond got his visa, and The New Zealand police gave him an offer,. Why do you think he would have needed training police beforehand? Surely the New Zealand police force knew how to train new recruits.

                “Generally people who are born in a country normally want to represent their country of birth.”

                How can you measure that? Most people born in a country only have the option of representing that country. The only time the question arises is when someone has an option to play for more than one. There are plenty of examples of players choosing to to represent a country other than their birth, and the reasons are varied. For instance, Naholo decided to be an All Black but didn’t apply for New Zealand citizenship.

    • Roar Guru

      January 24th 2018 @ 6:16am
      Machpants said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:16am | ! Report

      One swallow doesn’t make a spring, i.e. One poor cashed up club season didn’t make it the end of their dominance. English clubs, less foreign star studded than the French, seem to be struggling more with burn out, esp amongst their lions stars. I should imagine similar too much rugby problems apply to France, tho I don’t watch as much French rugby.

      Still I hope your right tho and they stop sucking up our players and use home grown!

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2018 @ 6:28am
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:28am | ! Report

        There is a lot of spin on the argument/explanation that the English Lions players are fatigued. From what I have seen, on average, the English Lions players have approx played twice as many matches than the Welsh and Irish Lions since they returned from NZ.

        • Columnist

          January 24th 2018 @ 6:57am
          Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

          From what I have seen, on average, the English Lions players have approx played twice as many matches than the Welsh and Irish Lions since they returned from NZ.

          …And that is part of cynicism of the English club system too NV. There is no real regard for player welfare, and I’ve little doubt the players realize it.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 10:49am
            Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

            They have to do it Nick due to injuries.

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2018 @ 3:06pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

            This is a very interesting subject NB.
            Matt Dawson said some interesting things on BBC yesterday about this:

            The heavy workload on England’s top players could cost them dearly at next year’s Rugby World Cup, according to World Cup winner Matt Dawson.

            A number of England internationals have featured regularly for their clubs this season following an arduous Lions tour to New Zealand last summer.

            And Dawson says the amount of rugby being played by some England stars is an “ongoing issue”.

            “I fear for this England side going forward to the World Cup,” he said.

            “It’s been the same for many, many years,” Dawson told BBC Radio 5 live.

            Statistics reveal that out of the players who went on the Lions tour, the average English player has played more domestic minutes so far this season than his Irish, Welsh or Scottish counterparts.

            But while the Irish Rugby Union centrally contract their players and are able to control their workloads, the English players are paid and managed primarily by their clubs, who are entitled to manage them as they see fit.

            “It’s an ongoing issue that is yet to be solved when it comes to the English domestic game,” added former England captain Dawson, who won 77 caps and the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

            “It’s game after game after game. Domestically the standard is so superbly high, then they go into Europe – the games are back to back – then all of a sudden they are into the Six Nations.

            “It goes on an on and on. To see what some of these England players have done off the back of a Lions tour and the previous season, I just fear.

            “Compare to the Irish team who will have two- or three-week breaks so the players can get down-time.

            “The quality of life as an [Irish] rugby player is significantly better than an England player.”


            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 5:57pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

              Thanks NV – the players association is only at the very beginning of getting its act together in this respect. They will have to pack a lot more wallop before the owners start believing them and get serious about welfare issues.

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:58pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

                Agree, the players union has a lot of work to do and until they really organize themselves and have a clear agenda, very little will change I am afraid.

                Especially the last quote from Dawson rings home to me:

                “The quality of life as an [Irish] rugby player is significantly better than an England player.”

                The same thing could, of course, be said about player in NZ, less money but the quality of life and rugby is in many regards better.

                Would also be interesting to see if NZ players play more or less senior games during their carers and if NZ players can perform at a higher level at an older age than English players.

                Have not checked the exact facts, but I believe that there are very few English players that comes even close to a 100 Tests. There could be many reasons behind that, but I am pretty sure that injuries and fatigue is a big part of the explanation.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 7:11pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

                Matt Dawson’s statement is very telling isn’t it? Right on the money.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 5:07pm
          Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          I wouldnt have thought that fatigue should be a problem for the Lions…They went home after the tour and had a few months off….The Abs went straight into SR finals and then on to the RC and the EOYT so it is the SH sides that should have been weary after their mid year tests….I thought the ABs played “tired” on the EOYT and Aus fell apart in the last two tests…..Wouldnt it be great to have a commom season

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 6:01pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

            I once did a study about the injury fallout from Lions’ tours Jacko and it is catastrophic. More than 80% of Lions tourists go down with injury (usually of the long term kind) after a tour and the mental fatigue aspect of being asked for another ‘peak’ so soon after the domestic season ends is very demanding. No proper pre-season or R & R before they catapult straight into the next domestic campaign for many…

            Global season is probably the single biggest ‘wish-for’ of all!

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2018 @ 6:04pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

            The Lions came back from NZ to Europe around mid-July. Pre-season started at the beginning of August and first Premiership game was played the first week in September. Itoje had something like a two week holiday after been playing rugby non-stop for eleven months.
            The Irish and the Welsh players got an eight week holiday after the Lions tour, but as said, the English had to get right back to work.
            How many weeks holiday to the regular All Blacks get every year?

            Saying that I do agree it would be a blessing if all teams around the world shared the same season, played the same amount of games and there was a clear and fair regulation setup regarding player availability and welfare.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 7:12pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

              Global season cannot come quickly enough, even if it is a compromise to begin with NV…

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 7:55pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

                I had a Eureka moment the other week. What if FFR and RU created 4-5 franchises each to feed the national teams, and let Aviva and Top 14 be feeder leagues to the franchises? Obviously, the clubs would throw the kitchen sink at this idea, but what could they really do if FFR and RU decided we are gonna do it anyway? I doubt they could compete moneywise with these franchises backed by the two richest unions in the world.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:06pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

                Problem is that the players are contracted to their clubs, and the owners will never surrender control of them…

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:07pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

                I don’t know anyone in English rugby who thinks that would be possible. Rob Andrew said recently that the horse has well and truly bolted on the idea. The opportunity was lost in the early days of the game going professional.

                The only scenario I can envisage where it might arise, is if English club rugby imploded financially, and the RFU was the only party around to bail it out.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:15pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

                The only scenario I can envisage where it might arise, is if English club rugby imploded financially, and the RFU was the only party around to bail it out.

                Similar to what happened in Wales on a more modest scale. Dragons were bailed out by WRU who now ‘own’ them. The WRU ofc also has a stake in the top players via national-dual contracts. Chipping away at the edges to get to the structure they should have had all along 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 8:26pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

                Is that really a problem NB?

                Let say that RU and FFR decide to do this in 2021. With 4-5 years of pre-planning, they could rather easily contract all the players they want well in advance. And what players would sign deals with clubs that passes 2021, if they knew they would make more money, play less rugby and be better-taken care of in a union-run franchise?

                Let us not forget that FFR and RU are richer than almost all the clubs combined and they would most likely get even richer if they could administrate and run 4-5 top franchises in a meaningful competition. And with a lot more “air” in the calendar, they could play more Tests (the real money maker) and also do a lot more meaningful touring.

                And if this happened, a proper World Champions Super Rugby League could be possible. And a tournament/competition like that would surely be the prime target for all broadcasters (=more money).

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 9:34pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

                All sorts of things would be necessary though NV –

                – Lots of players whose contracts all end at roughly the same time to be in agreement that they’ll all leave together

                – Confidence that the unions would have the right competitions in place and be able to run them competently

                – Confidence that the union itself could carry the financial and marketing burden of all the new players/tournaments

                Remember that the unions currently in existence tend to administer the amateur parts of the game for the most part, with the pro elements in the hands of the clubs. A lot of players would require a lot of guarantees before they committed to such a move, I suspect. It’s a huge unknown!

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 9:53pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

                No doubt it is a huge unknown, and at the moment there is most def, not enough competence at Union-level to administrate this.

                But it is not mission impossible, at least not in theory. And I think the Unions have credibility enough among the players for them to join.

                To get all the players at the same time could be tough, but with 3-4 years pre-planning 80-90 percent of the players could be signed in advance me think (and the other 10-20 percent would come over in a year or two).

                I guess I have to try to write an article about this idea and dig a little deeper.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 10:52pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:52pm | ! Report

                Might be an idea to interview someone with an interest in the proposal NV….

              • January 25th 2018 @ 3:54am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:54am | ! Report

                ‘Let us not forget that FFR and RU are richer than almost all the clubs combined and they would most likely get even richer if they could administrate and run 4-5 top franchises in a meaningful competition. And with a lot more “air” in the calendar, they could play more Tests (the real money maker) and also do a lot more meaningful touring.’

                The RFU yes, the FFR no. The main reason is that the RFU have a 365 day running asset in Twickenham that generates huge income, the FFR don’t and never have. The FFR spend a fortune on stadium rental and that is why they planned on building their own stadium which was canned by Laporte when he was elected.

              • Roar Guru

                January 25th 2018 @ 8:29pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

                True that FFR is not as rich as RU, but FFR wear big boy pants when it comes to finances in the rugby world.

                They do pay a hefty rent for the use of stadiums, but if you can sell out an 80 000 seater every time (and get 60 000 to mid-week non-Tests) it is a no-brainer that the FFR cash in rather nicely.

                And the way FFR “bulldozed” their way to the hosting rights for the WC 2023 is also pretty telling regarding what kind of financial muscle they have.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 9:52pm
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

                They didn’t sell out the SA and Japan tests in the AIs which probably played a part in forcing a change in head coach.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 3:50am
            Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:50am | ! Report

            ‘I once did a study about the injury fallout from Lions’ tours Jacko and it is catastrophic. More than 80% of Lions tourists go down with injury (usually of the long term kind) after a tour and the mental fatigue aspect of being asked for another ‘peak’ so soon after the domestic season ends is very demanding. No proper pre-season or R & R before they catapult straight into the next domestic campaign for many…’

            Mainly in Wales. It doesn’t help that you have separate governing body for the regions in RRW rather than the WRU running the show like the IRFU do over the provinces in Ireland.

            • Columnist

              January 25th 2018 @ 8:16am
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

              No, not mainly in Wales, the situation in England after the 2013 tour was just as bad.

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 6:40am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:40am | ! Report

        True, MP – but another aspect of the issue which may cause a rethink is that none of the English Prem clubs are in the black financially. Exeter are the closest to it and they’ve built from the home-grown model.

        In France attendances are down about 10% from what I understand, so the wealthy benefactors may reconsider there too…

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2018 @ 7:05am
          Machpants said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

          I didn’t realise it was that bad (good for SH?)!

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 7:07am
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:07am | ! Report

            Yep it’s not a bottomless pit of money up North, far from it.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 8:25am
              taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

              Yes that’s another thing I’m concerned about. hate to see the ‘dreamers’ suddenly being axed and bang up to 100 players come back and have to fit into our SR so we go from ‘famine to feast’ overnight. (Famine obviously a bit overdramatic 🙂 )

              But this gravy train has been going for some time now and a shift in economy, interest, rules are the sorts of things that could affect the scene across the board at the same time.

              Unlikely but always possible.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 9:13am
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

                The English and French clubs have to become viable as businesses in order for the model to work, and there’s is little sign of that happening as yet. Saracens are essentially funded by overseas interests in SA, which underwrite their £50m debt (or whatever it is now…).

              • January 24th 2018 @ 11:04am
                Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                Nick the clubs in France get audited the English ones clearly don’t.

                Stade Francais have been threatened with financial relegation twice. Bourgoin and Montauban have already been punished.

                Toulon for all their criticism are actually profitable and no longer dependent on Boudjallel.

                Clubs like Pau, Clermont and Toulouse have large multinationals like Total, Michelin and Airbus ploughing money in so they don’t have a sole private owner. Bordeaux’s sponsors pool money together to plough in to the club. I don’t think Lyon have an owner.

                There is no mention of Brive having an owner and they run at a profit. As for Castres pretty sure it is in Pierre Fabre’s estate that money goes in to the Rugby club. They don’t have a huge budget yet are constantly in the playoffs and won the league a few years back.

                It’s only a small number of clubs that do.

                Only really Toulouse own their ground and the councils and investors put money in to refurbishments so the French clubs don’t have those overheads that some English teams do. Far easier to get approval in French just look at Bath’s problems.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 10:38am
                Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

                Isnt that part of the Private ownership problem tho Nick? The owners are not neccessarily running their clubs to be financially successful, as they dont suffer from lack of money. It appears that some owners are treating it as having a hobby and its about prestige rather than being a successful business. That is why so many OS players are signed and it appears sometimes that “owning ” an ex AB or Wallaby is as much of a buzz for the owner as actually winning…Are owners just signing people they want to have around?

              • January 24th 2018 @ 10:48am
                Taylorman said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

                Yeah I don’t get it, can’t be the crowd revenue. Lion heads on the walls?

              • January 24th 2018 @ 4:21pm
                Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:21pm | ! Report


                Altrad seems to be in it foer the long run – he built a new stadium.

                Murad has any times threatened to walk away.

                I think the rise of La Rochelle in the last 3 years has made people consider other options.

                the same with Wasps and Exeter.

                Bristol are looking to emulate thenm next year….

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:04pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

                To Bakkies (below)

                Thanks for the info – how does this tally with the reported fall in attendances this season B?

                In England if you recall a couple of years ago, Premiership Rugby chose not to disclose the results of their investigation into salary cap breaches, although it was known at the time that two clubs had failed the ‘test’. All the others came out and said publicly that they were not under any cloud of suspicion!

              • January 25th 2018 @ 4:18am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:18am | ! Report

                La Rochelle’s business model I say would be similar to Bordeaux’s as there is no mention of them having an owner. They both came up together in the same season. La Rochelle took a bit longer as it is their first season in the not the Heineken Cup sponsored by Heineken whereas Bordeaux have already played in it.

                Bordeaux is another player in the market as they have attracted players like Ian Madigan, Sekope Kepu and Adam Ashley Cooper on big money. They prefer not to buy too many of them though as there is still a core there that came up with the club when they were promoted. They have got the biggest attendances in Europe as they have benefited from the football club moving to the new stadium and moving in to Chaban Delmas with the same capacity.

                ‘Thanks for the info – how does this tally with the reported fall in attendances this season B?’

                Apart from Stade Francais who have had instability, poor results, one venue and I wouldn’t blame people in Paris not attending public events for the time being it wouldn’t be related the club set ups are the same.

                With the reduced matches not being played at bigger venues like the Stade de France attendances will naturally drop. I don’t think either Paris club can play there now as they have got new council funded stadiums which is understandable. Stade Francais played up to 3 maybe more a season and moved other games to venues in northern France like Lille which is an impressive 50,000 seater when theirs was being built.

                France as a whole has just come out of a state of emergency clubs and fans aren’t happy with Sunday Rugby which is only just become common in France. Anyone who has been to the south of France would have noticed that Sunday is a dead day and clubs like Toulon have played a lot of games on a Sunday which hasn’t filled the stadium. They get full crowds on Fridays and Saturdays.

                Teams are playing in larger regular venues. Lyon have moved to Olympique Lyonnais old home ground full time, Racing have moved in to their new stadium. Teams like Grenoble who have already moved full time in to a 25,000 seat stadium (get good crowds) and Perpignan (regularly get a full house) pushing for promotion you should see numbers go up again.

                ‘In England if you recall a couple of years ago, Premiership Rugby chose not to disclose the results of their investigation into salary cap breaches, although it was known at the time that two clubs had failed the ‘test’. All the others came out and said publicly that they were not under any cloud of suspicion!’

                It was expected to be Saracens and Bath to be the suspect clubs. Nigel Wray and Bruce Craig have a lot of clout in PRL. If England had French style audits Sarries would be long gone due to their debt structure.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 7:01pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

                To Bakkies (below)

                Well we know what happened the last time that Prem Rugby tried to police the salary cap don’t we!

            • January 24th 2018 @ 11:40am
              Bluesfan said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

              And yet the English Premier League allows for a “Marquee” players salary to be outside the salary cap – So Lima Sopoaga’s salary of something North of 500K GBP is not included in Wasps salary cap.

              You would have to say that is unfair to the clubs that can’t afford to buy that WC Talent and further the sustainability of a business when most of its participants are running at a loss has to be questioned – what happens when the rich benefactors get bored?

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 1:30pm
                Rugby Fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                That Marquee player clause looks like a bit of a blunder.

                It seems to have encouraged all players to raise their asking price. If a marguee player gets 500k, then someone on 200k starts wanting 230-250k. Sum that up across the squad, and it all gets beyond the cap.

                It looks like teams have responded by limiting the squad size instead. However, this season has seen a lot of injuries. It’s too early to know if that’s down to the new laws but the net result is that bigger budgets aren’t going as far as the teams expected.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:14pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

                what happens when the rich benefactors get bored?

                Well this is exactly what happened in Wales. The benefactors didn’t get bored, but guys like Tony Brown at Dragons and Mike Cuddy at Ospreys despaired of ever reaching break even point. For a variety of reasons they just couldn’t pull in enough punters through the gate.

                Do you remember that Newport club side of the late 1990’s? – it had Gary Teichmann, Percy Montgomery, Adrian Garvey, Simon Raiwalui, Sahen Howarth and Rod Snow in it.

                Now the only ‘name’ at the Dragons is Zane Kirchner, who’s almost 34 years old and whose best days are very much behind him!

              • January 25th 2018 @ 4:33am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:33am | ! Report

                ‘You would have to say that is unfair to the clubs that can’t afford to buy that WC Talent and further the sustainability of a business when most of its participants are running at a loss has to be questioned – what happens when the rich benefactors get bored?’

                Most clubs in sport run at a loss it is more whether they can spend so much on salaries. It is part of the audit in France the salary cap is high but you can’t fill if you don’t have the budget. I don’t know if it has changed in England due to the scrutiny of the salary cap and club financial structures.

                Wasps are eventually going to have a business that will generate revenue 365 days a year not just run during the season. Once the stadium is settled they will have a thriving business. They have a Casino and entertainment complex that is a part of it and I think hotel too.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 6:08pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

              To Jacko (below)

              They are businessmen and they run the clubs as if they are businesses Jacko – they expect to at least break even (eventually) rather then run at a loss year on year. But at least in England that has yet to happen, despite the increase in average attendances.

              Most of the money goes into player salaries, and the biggest are usually those made to star players from abroad, who put bums on seats.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 11:28am
            Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            Machpants no it is not good for Rugby south of the equator. Fans need to look at the mess in their own background before putting the boot in to Europe.

            Kings officials arrested on suspicion of fraud (one of them is a father of a former Springbok), WP officials being investigated for fraud (I wonder if they have Unit Trusts there as all the money they had is virtually gone), the sale of historic stadium in Newlands has been approved and will end up as a commercial development (done to stop WP going out of business), teams kicked out of Super Rugby, Melbourne Rebels sold for a dollar twice in the space of three years now under investigation by the Australian financial regulator, Auckland Rugby is a mess, the NSWRU putting their own levy on player registration to cover shortfall, the Bulls certainly can’t afford another year of woeful crowds, enough has been written about the Reds.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 2:13pm
              Ex force fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

              Yes Bakkiee. We can critisize once we get our house in order. I am waiting for the Rugby Australia’s financials for 2017 after a catastrophic year on and off the field.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 4:34am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:34am | ! Report

                Yeah I have got the popcorn ordered for when they come out.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 9:30am
          hello said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          I find it worrying that so many clubs are in the red.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 8:52pm
            Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

            very few clubs in most games are actually making profits.

            it is same whether footy or cricket .

            not sure how it is with the american teams

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2018 @ 11:34pm
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:34pm | ! Report

              It is not that simple Cuw.
              Since the value of footy teams/clubs has increased a lot the last ten years, it is a very good business for the owners even if the team/club loses money.
              And to my knowledge, most of the teams in the Premier League makes huge profits these days. Same same with almost all the clubs in the Bundesliga. It is in Italy and Spain you find most clubs with financial problems, but the situation today is not nearly as bad as it was 5-10 years ago.

              NFL is by some distance the biggest money making machine in world sports. In 2017 the overall revenue for NFL is 14 billion USD.
              NBA, NHL and MLB is also very good business.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 10:48am
        Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        Saracens aside the English clubs have been poor in Europe for the past 11 years.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 8:53pm
          Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

          yes – most have a lot of history , like Quins for eg

          even in footy the traditional heavy weights have been taken over by the clubs that got billionaire owners .

          • January 25th 2018 @ 4:38am
            Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:38am | ! Report

            Sarries were the original galacticos of Rugby as soon as the game turned professional they signed Phillippe Sella, Francois Pienaar, Thomas Castagnede, Tim Horan to name a few. Their success has come in this era with a hardworking team with a core of English players (some developed in their academy) and an Irish coach in Mark McCall who had a point to prove after losing his job at Ulster.

            • Columnist

              January 25th 2018 @ 7:59am
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

              It’s also come via a South African funded £50m overdraft Bakkies, more important than all the hard work and cultural building blocks put together. Without Rupert’s money, nothing else would have been possible…

              • January 25th 2018 @ 3:30pm
                Cuw said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

                it is interesting that Nigel Wray is still there coz am sure he must be now a minority SH.

                also interesting the portfolio of RICHMONT – they basically have some of the most expensive jewellery and watch and cloths brands in the world .

                like Cartier , Baume & Mercier , Jaeger-LeCoultre , Piaget , Van Cleef & Arpels , Chloé , Montblanc….

                am wondering if they are bigger than LVMH ?

                also do they invest in SA rugger teams?

    • January 24th 2018 @ 6:31am
      Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      Hey Nick, fantastic article, as per usual.

      One thing I wonder though, given that French and English sides loaded with foreign talent have won for most of the last 5-6 years, could it not simply be that this year is the exception as opposed to a new rule? In 2014 Stan won the Australian Open and Cilic won the US Open and we suddenly had everyone wondering if it was the end of the era of the ‘big four’. In the end, however, the big 4 re-asserted their dominance and simply added Stan to their ranks (incidentally, at his best I think Stan is the best player in the world – better even than Fed and Djok at their best).

      If 2017-18 does make a new rule, why has the French/English system of buying lots of SH players stopped being effective?

      Cheers again

      • Columnist

        January 24th 2018 @ 6:44am
        Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:44am | ! Report

        One thing I wonder though, given that French and English sides loaded with foreign talent have won for most of the last 5-6 years, could it not simply be that this year is the exception as opposed to a new rule?

        Could be Fionn – but the weight of three Celtic sides in the top three qualifying spots is hard to ignore, and Irish teams in particular would suffer as much from Lions burnout as the clubs in England…

        I for one don’t really see any English teams rising as fast as those three, it’s Exeter and Sarries really.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 6:56am
          Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report

          Thanks, Nick.

          Anyway, best of luck against Saracens—although it seems that drawing Saracens after going unbeaten in the pool of death is somewhat unlucky…

          • Columnist

            January 24th 2018 @ 6:58am
            Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:58am | ! Report

            In one way yes Fionn – but you also want to beat the best in order to become the best!

            • January 24th 2018 @ 7:25am
              Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

              Aye Nick. There is no one Federer would have preferred to beat in the Australian Open final last year than Rafa Nadal.

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2018 @ 3:14pm
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              And if one has to play Sarries – which is very likely if one aspires to win the Champions Cup – it is better to play them at home in the QF (SF and final is rarely played at any teams home ground).

              But I do see Fionn point, there are “easier” teams than Sarries left in the comp. Sarries might be the only team in Europe that actually can beat a high-flying Leinster in Dublin.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 4:26pm
                Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

                nope , they were lucky – very lucky.

                to play ur final match , needing to score 4 trys , against the one team u have scored 50+ this season twice.

                then for injury ravaged Wasps to beat Ulster (minus CLL who went home to Canberra ) and for Chiefs to lose ( albeit a silly decision from ref ) – its a perfect storm !!!

                as Dean Jones says – luck is a fortune 🙂

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:16pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

                There is no doubt that Sarries can win the match in Dublin NV – but we will looking under every unturned stone to make sure it does not happen 🙂

              • January 25th 2018 @ 10:19am
                ClarkeG said | January 25th 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

                An ounce of luck is worth a ton of judgement Cuw.

                The referee decision – I take it you mean the penalty try.

                Ref Poite – a silly decision? never. How could he not see that as “accidentally”? 🙂

                Seriously however I thought he got that one right from the highlights package I’ve seen. Nick White was it…he looked like he knocked that ball forward accidentally on purpose.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 3:40pm
                Cuw said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                i watched that match. i will not say bias but it seemed that Glasgow were on the right side of the ref.

                like in 99% of the matches the ref thought one side was better than the other – and that side was Glasgow.

                but chiefs were unlucky. there was a try deemed held up – i just dont know how someone can say that for sure given the size of the rugger ball. i mean people have trouble judging if a fielder got the fingers under a cricket ball – and here they say the ball didnt touch grass.

                my issue is that on other occasions when someone goes close to the line – they say ” it only has to touch a blade of grass” . but when someone goes over the line and is not rolled over – still they say the defender managed to get a hand under the ball and keep it off ground. im not sure and dont want to be hung on such evidence 😀

                ROB BAXTER was very gracious – something Cheik could learn regarding decisions.

                ” Asked by the media for his view on the yellow card, Baxter replied:

                “It’s tight. I’ve seen as many times as you did on the big screen. I also had a chat with Romain as we walked off and he acknowledged it’s a tight call as well. You can look at it over and over again and say there is nothing really happening and that it’s just a tackle scenario. At other times, you can say it looks like Glasgow were going to score. My feeling is I’m not sitting here massively bothered about the refereeing decisions, I’m more bothered about us. I think there was a lot more we could have done to keep things in our hands and that’s what has bothered me more than anything.” “

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2018 @ 7:50am
        Derm McCrum said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        Hi Fionn. The English commentators have focused on the disparity of playing time between Premiership players and PRO14 players – the domestic ones, not the foreign players. And the Lions players are a part of that comparison.

        Whilst this appears to be a discovery by English rugby media, it’s more a case of deja vu in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Five years ago, the PRL was complaining about PRO12 teams (Leinster, Munster, Ulster really) resting and rotating their players to have them fresh for the European Cup. To which the only response should have been – oh you’ve finally noticed that then. The playing time limits for top Irish players is about 25 games/2000 minutes a season. In England, it’s 30+.

        Bottom line is that the English players are overplayed in comparison which could affect their test side. So they need bigger squads to lessen the workload. And potentially look at their league structure and season.

        A recent report said that some of the richer Premiership clubs are looking to buy out what’s called the Pshare from London Irish (its effectively an ownership share in the Prem). Irish are going down this season. Bristol, another original P share are coming up. The Premiership would then ringfence and remove promotion/relegation from the league. This would de-stress the league and remove the relentless playing time required of top players. It would allow squads to be expanded to possibly 50 players and allow more English qualified players to come through.

        • Columnist

          January 24th 2018 @ 8:03am
          Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

          Spot on PA.

          English league players are overplayed principally because of the attitudes and needs of private ownership, which will take every extra weekend in the calendar it can get.

          There is no doubt that ring-fencing the EPL is the endgame here. Irish will go down, Bristol will go up and that will probably be the final solution. They don’t want another club in or around London like Irish but Bristol will do just fine.

          The the owners can relax a little knowing that their investment won’t be busted by relegation and a season in the Championship!

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2018 @ 9:15am
            Derm McCrum said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            I’m gonna wait and see on that one Nick. London Irish majority shareholder, Crossan, one of two Irish club owners in the Premiership, is adamant that he won’t sell the P-share. As you’re probably aware, he’s had enough of bankrolling the club and another consortium is looking to take over and invest £10m in the club. Crossan wants Irish back in the Premiership and thinks they should ring fence at 14 clubs, not 12. He has some support for this approach and that it would happen in 2021, after the new global season is underway.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 9:23am
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

              Yes 12 or 14 clubs is probably the critical decision to be made PA. I doubt they’ll persist with the relegation format much longer.

              Geography may also play its part in deciding who those last two clubs are however.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 12:02pm
              Bakkies said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

              The Not Nots should be in the league. They have a huge minis, youth and amateur sections to feed in to their side and are looking at moving in to Brentford from Reading.

              Sadly Yorkshire/Leeds who have good player development don’t have the attendances when they have had their opportunities in the Premiership.

              • Columnist

                January 24th 2018 @ 6:18pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                Yes I think ideally they’d like another club base up North B, rather than another club around London.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 4:44am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:44am | ! Report

                They would however ringfencing a club like London Irish could be catastrophic and see them go the way of London Welsh. They develop a lot of talent for English Rugby with a large academy and have had success in the AP. They should be allowed to get that opportunity again.

                Flicking aside the promotion opportunities for Leeds and London Irish would be detrimental for English Rugby.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 5:00pm
              Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

              ideally all these leagues shud consider reducing the number of teams – becoz some endup playing Heineken cup also.

              but less teams is not what TV companies want.

              this happened with super rugger as well. expand and dilute quality. and then flog the better players till they break down.

              no team will want to pay guys and still limit their involvement to certain number of minutes or games.

              anyways the number of injuries is ruining many parties ..

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 5:32pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

                Rugby can learn a thing or two from NFL. They have had a 16 game regular season since forever almost. They could easily expand the season with another month or two, still, they don’t so. Why?

                Champions League went “backward” by removing the second phase of the group stage about ten years ago and thereby removed four games – in total – for every team (at least the usual suspects) every year. And business is better than ever. Why?

                TV companies are – at the bone – interested in top quality products.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 4:51am
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:51am | ! Report

                NFL is not a good example as the league features 32 teams that have around 50 players and probably 25 coaches each based in the same country. The only other time zone they play outside of the Americas is when teams play matches in London. Even college teams cart around 100 employees to each away match. To play more matches wouldn’t be feasible for certain teams.

                They also have a history disengaging regions by relocating teams if a local government in another city is willing to throw a billion dollars at the NFL. I think the City of Oakland is looking at suing the NFL due to the relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas. We will see how long a team lasts in Vegas.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 9:47am
                Celtic334 said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

                The NFL also has a near identical product providing hundreds of games on the Saturday in College Football. It is also the only sport to successfully manage commercial success with a short season. Football, basketball, baseball, tennis, ice hockey you name it all achieve success through saturation of content. The problem with SR is that the product isn’t even, we have teams winning by 50+ on a weekly basis and the content itself isn’t readily available to the markets it’s should be directed at.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 7:09pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

                The size of the English league is in some respect a source of the problem. If it were designed on Por 14 lines, there would prob only be the need for about 8 teams, I reckon. That would do nicely, and there would be a less pressing need for o’seas talent.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 7:23pm
                Cuw said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:23pm | ! Report


                Super rugger was great as super 10 or 12 .

                there is a very good reason IPL has only 8 teams.

                and given who usually end up at the top of the table each year after year – England can easily make it 8 teams in aviva.

                but the issue is the lack of trickle down of resources to the next levels. much like in the capitalist world the haves go on and enjoy it all , while have nots have to beg n borrow.

                if they can find a fix that will ensure more resources go to lower levels – then maybe they can do with like a 3 tier structure with say 8 -9 teams each .

                throw in a demotion promotion system and the season will be very short. much like Miter 10.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2018 @ 9:41pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

                Trouble is the age-old one of getting independent owners to sacrifice themselves for the greater good!

              • January 25th 2018 @ 10:01pm
                Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

                Not a fan of axing teams just look at the damage it has done to Australian Rugby. Unions/club bodies need to do better due diligence before introducing new sides which includes the operating model so it doesn’t bleed the game dry and the quality of players available. No point in setting up a new team just due to the size of the market when you don’t have the finances and the players.

                Super Rugby right from the beginning has always had whipping boys it is not a new phenomena. I remember the Bulls going nearly two years without a win.

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2018 @ 12:50pm
            Rugby Fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            It hasn’t really been the threat of relegation which has seen the Aviva teams flog their England players. London Irish started losing quite early in the season, and only three teams have ever looked like facing the drop.

            Instead, it’s the competition for the top 4 places for half the league, and top 6 for the rest which has been the driver. Ringfencing the league won’t really change that. At most, it will just allow teams who fall out of contention early in the season to experiment without penalty. Better than nothing but not necessarily a big improvement fir player welfare at the top.

            • Columnist

              January 24th 2018 @ 6:20pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | January 24th 2018 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

              It will give the clubs the freedom to bring on local talent knowing that they cannot be punished in the short term by being relegated, and therefore haemorraging revenue and losing their best overseas players.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 2:38pm
          Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          That’s really interesting, Poth. Cheers.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 8:57pm
        Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

        dont be silly .

        there is still no player better than Federer. he is the Tendulkar of Tennis.

        if he played cricket he would been like Tendulkar 🙂

        As good as Wawrinka is , he is much like a Steve Waugh – a guy who really worked hard to come to the top. It is great no doubt – but nothing so easy on the eye like a natural athlete.

        • January 25th 2018 @ 4:55am
          Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 4:55am | ! Report

          Federer would be like Brian Lara once he gets going there is a record to break. Lara had a lot more style than Tendulkar with his high back lift and drives through the offside.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 3:52pm
            Cuw said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report


            in cricket any lefty is “stylish” compared to a right handed batter 😛

            am sure Murali will agree with u regarding Lara , but feder is more like sachin than lara or Gower or Sanga 🙂

            • January 25th 2018 @ 10:02pm
              Bakkies said | January 25th 2018 @ 10:02pm | ! Report

              I wouldn’t call Gilchrist, Chris Gayle and Matt Hayden stylish.

        • January 25th 2018 @ 8:40am
          Fionn said | January 25th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

          Cuw, it depends on how you define better. Federer can maintain a high level far, far longer (for years on end), but Wawrinka has so much more power than Federer or Djokovic.

          If they both played their best I would pick Federer on grass or fast indoor hard surfaces, but I just cannot see him beating Wawrinka on a slower hard surface (like the Aussie or US Open) or clay. When Djokovic was at his most dominant Wawrinka was the only person who could beat Djok over 5 sets when Djok was playing well, as he did at the Aussie Open, Roland Garros and US Open.

          At his best I would say he’s the best in the world at the moment—Taylor Dent agrees with me 😛 . Although it is impossible to compare him to the vintage 05-07 Federer, which was when he was most dominant.

          I say all this despite the fact that Federer is my favourite player of all time.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 3:48pm
            Cuw said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

            u reinforce my point – Stan has a power game , but lacks the finesse of an artist that RF is.

            all the best of best cricket batters have one thing in common – time. no matter where or what time they bat , it is as if the ball comes to them in slo-mo and they can have some tea and biscuits and then decide what shot to play.

            RF is the same in tennis . he is more timing than power – which he also has . that is why i say he would have batted like Sachin if he played cricket.

            i agree with Bakkies also that RF is very stylish like Lara – but the thing is Lara had to get going. most often it was in a rubbish team .

            there are quite a few stylish lefties from recent past like David Gower , Lara , Sangakkara.

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