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Rugby World: 'Global Super Cup' to fix spring mess, Eddie's Japan 'conflict' and 'f---ing chaotic' selections

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27th October, 2021
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Welcome to the third edition of Rugby World, where we take a look at stories making news here and abroad this week.

‘Let’s have a Global Super Cup’
Is the spring tour as it stands – hectic yet unstructured – a wasted opportunity? Yes, according to former England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman.

Vickerman joined ex-England hooker Brian Moore on his Full Contact podcast earlier this week and had some strong views on how to sort out the erratic fixture list over November.

By Vickerman’s calculations, there will be 14 teams playing international rugby in the northern hemisphere over the next month.

“Why then would this not be an opportunity to say ‘right let’s just take November, the four weekends, and have a global Super Cup, akin to a World Cup,” Vickerman said.

“You’ve essentially got the best teams in the world. You could have three pools of four, put them in the big locations around the UK and have this amazing product.

“Broadcast would be all over it, it would champion the game at a time when it needs it the most and it would unify what at the moment is a completely scattergun schedule.

“It wouldn’t demean the World Cup – that’s the first question people would ask.

“That is still going to be the prestige tournament, the big conversation, but it seems so bizarre you’ve got all these teams coming across to Europe at a time when it’s more difficult than ever to do so, and there’s no synergy.

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“There’s no understanding of why it’s happening. It would be an amazing Super Cup. It’s a nonsense there isn’t something a little more aligned.”

The northern rugby festival kicks off this weekend with all eyes on the All Blacks’ visit to Wales.

After the New Zealand’s ran up a century in their demolition of USA, most are expecting another romp, with the game being played outside the official three-week window requiring club teams to release players for international duty.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Chris Foy, writing in the Daily Mail, was the strongest voice in opposition to the game, which is, nonetheless a sell out and will do wonders for Welsh rugby’s bottom line.

“New Zealand’s 104-14 rout of a weakened USA side re-emphasised rugby’s urgent need for a proper, integrated global season,” Foy wrote.

“The whole game is diminished by the inability to achieve a streamlined logical structure … damaging overlaps between international and club fixtures cannot go on.

“Wales won’t fold as easily as the Americans when they face the All Blacks, but the sad fact is that Wayne Pivac’s side – missing a raft of regulars – have no chance of winning the out-of-window test.

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“It will be another sham fixture; an exercise in making money from a mis-match.”

Wales were further hit on Wednesday with news that their former Super Rugby-winning Hurricanes midfielder Willis Halaholo will miss the game after testing positive for Covid-19.

He was expected to line up at inside centre against the All Blacks, who still expect the 74,500 sell-out Test to proceed.

“There will be all sorts of talk around the game and is it in jeopardy but as we understand right now the player who has tested with Covid has dropped out of their environment,” NZ assistant coach John Plumtree told reporters. “They’ll all get tested and all have to be negative before they can play in the weekend.”

Pressure on Eddie
Eddie Jones’ consulting role with Suntory Sungoliath has been raised by the UK Telegraph in the wake of the decisions by Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon not to tour Europe – a three Test campaign that includes a match against Jones’ England.

The decision by Kerevi and McMahon has angered Dave Rennie and Andy Marinos, and comes even though Australia has the right to choose the pair under regulation nine.

The Telegraph said: “It has been stressed to Telegraph Sport that Jones, whose association with Suntory stretches back over 20 years, had nothing to do with the decision.

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“Even so, there is an obvious perception of a conflict of interests. As recently as last week, Jones praised the influence that hard-running Kerevi has had on a recent resurgence for the Wallabies, who are on a run of five consecutive Test wins.”

England’s Rugby Football Union commented on Jones’ job with Suntory last year: “Eddie has had a consultancy agreement with Suntory for over 20 years. We have been aware and comfortable with that since he joined the RFU. He provides consultancy in his holidays and this role is in no way a conflict with his England team priorities.”

Meanwhile Jones has been the subject of a withering attack by veteran rugby writer Stephen Jones in The Times after naming his 34-man squad for the November Tests.

The writer was irked by Jones’ decision to jettison several older players, and his comments following the selection that questioned the desire of those left out, concluding the result was “the most ludicrous England squad in my memory”.

“The England squad for the autumn games announced last week is insulting to some players of unimpeachable sporting character and insulting to the Gallagher Premiership as a competition because the top-grade evidence it provides on elite players under pressure has been blithely ignored by England’s head coach,” Stephen Jones wrote.

“It is insulting to club coaches who know their players, psychologically and physically, way deeper than the England coaches ever could and who would never eject them as Jones has, simply to test their motivation — surely, that would be a sure sign of coaching failure.

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“The squad is ageist, insulting to the whole arena of international sport, which should always be about choosing the very best players. There are enough premature bright sparks in the squad to start a damaging forest fire. The whole thing is also insulting to our intelligence.”

He added: “My colleague, Owen Slot, summarised beautifully the whole selectorial morass overseen by Eddie Jones, in two words: “So Eddie.” A giant England player of the past decade also had a reaction: “The trouble with Eddie’s chaos theory of selection is that it’s f***ing chaotic.”

Rassie back in his box
Rassie Erasmus will put down the water bottle and return to the coaching box in the Springboks’ three Tests in the UK next month, providing he’s clear to do so after his World Rugby hearing.

Erasmus angered Lions coach Warren Gatland by running the water in their series, but missed the trip down under for The Rugby Championship.

“Rassie is here in his capacity as director of rugby,” Nienaber said in a media briefing from Paris on Wednesday. “The normal trend was always only two water carriers in the technical box, but for the British and Irish Lions series World Rugby made three available and that was a role that we said we were going to fill internally. That gave Rassie the opportunity to be the water carrier.

“But we are now back to two water carriers in the technical zone, so there is no space for him. We normally had certain individuals that would fulfil that role and they will continue fulfilling that role. He will fulfil his normal role as director of rugby and he will be in the box with us at the top.”

Head coach Rassie Erasmus looks on

Rassie Erasmus (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Erasmus and SA Rugby are set to appear before an independent disciplinary committee for bringing the game into disrepute this weekend in the wake of his 62-minute video ref rant.

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Meanwhile, SA publication Rapport claimed this week that World Rugby believes Erasmus was right on 23 of the 26 errors highlighted in the video.

Can rugby do more to tackle racism?

British and Irish Lions and England forward Maro Itoje says rugby can do more to tackle racism and to increase diversity in the sport.

“Rugby needs to cast its net wider to include more people and attract more talent,” Itoje told Radio 5 Live.

“The Rugby Football Union does a lot. Can they do more? Perhaps. Premiership Rugby does some things. Can they do more? Definitely. Premiership clubs probably don’t do as much as they should. Can they do more? 100%.

“The more invested we all are in this, the greater the outcome will be.

“It has to do more to attract young rugby players from different backgrounds, environments and socio-economic groups and if it does that, everyone wins.

“There will be a better game and a better product and will lead to more fans, more people engaging and more demand for the broadcasters in terms of TV and for the guys putting money behind it

“Everyone’s a winner when the game is more diverse.”

While Itoje still takes the knee before games to highlight racism, not all of his teammates do.

“One thing that is clear from all the England players is that they’re against racism, they’re against discrimination and they’re against any form of racial abuse,” he said.

“Each player has to make their judgement whether they feel comfortable doing that and players will have their certain reasons.

“I’m not going to say if you don’t take the knee it means you are racist, that’s too simplistic.

“But while I do believe symbolic gestures are important, the most important thing is doing the work when you are in the public eye but also in private life as well.”

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Men in tights
England players Johnny May and Max Malins took advantage of a new rule allowing players to wear tights on artificial pitches last weekend.

May ran in a couple of tries and Malins bagged four for Saracens against Wasps.

“I knew I was going to get some stick for it, so had to put on a good performance didn’t I?” Malins said. “The amount of looks and comments I got, was exactly what I expected. It was coming from all different angles, but you’ve got to own it.”

In the same game he made a brilliant diving tackle and his opponent was left bleeding from the knees from the harsh surface. It might not be long before the tights – especially for those in the back three who dive for tries and try savers wear them more often than not.

Read’s 12s selection
Kieran Read has picked six All Blacks and a former NRL star in his dream 12s team.

Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo’unga are among the All Blacks while Springboks Steven Kitsoff and Cheslin Kolbe make the cut alongside Fijian Semi Radradra, a superstar in rugby league before his switch.

Read recently told Stuff he’d like to coach in the 12-a-side competition, which is being touted as rugby equivalent of the IPL. It is due to launch with a men’s tournament in England next year, followed by a women’s tournament in 2023.

The World 12s are seeking 192 players for eight franchises to play 30 minute matches between sides with six fowards and six backs.

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