Ire­land re­sponse far from ‘pos­i­tive and re­spect­ful’

The Rugby Paper - - Views - COLIN BOAG

It was a week for sore losers. They haven’t ac­tu­ally lost yet, but the Ir­ish and French Unions threw tantrums over South Africa com­ing top of the se­lec­tion process for de­ter­min­ing the best coun­try to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. As you would ex­pect, the two Unions went about it in very dif­fer­ent ways.

Bernard La­porte got very ex­cited about France com­ing sec­ond, claim­ing that the eval­u­a­tion re­port was ‘non­sense’ full of ‘bla­tant er­rors’, and damn­ing the au­thors’ ‘in­com­pe­tence’. World Rugby sprung to the de­fence of their process, and no doubt there will be a frank ex­change of views be­tween them and the FFR.

The Ir­ish ex­pressed their con­cern in a more mea­sured, but in my view even more un­pleas­ant way. Ahead of the fi­nal vote, which will take place in London later this month, you’d have thought they’d be fo­cused on try­ing to sell the ben­e­fits of their bid – some­thing they’ve clearly failed to do so far, as they came third of three.

Not so, they broke one of the car­di­nal rules of sales­man­ship, which is to knock the op­po­si­tion. That hardly ever works, and usu­ally sim­ply hard have ens at­ti­tudes against the one do­ing the knock­ing. The word that sprung to mind when I read their let­ter to World Rugby, was snide.

As an ex­am­ple, in­stead of sim­ply re­it­er­at­ing that they think they can fill their sta­dia, they had to point the finger at South Africa’s fail­ure to fill its grounds for Su­per Rugby matches, al­though what rel­e­vance that has is be­yond me. It would be equally ir­rel­e­vant to point out that apart from the der­bies be­tween Mun­ster and Le­in­ster, the Ir­ish Prov­inces fail to sell-out their PRO14 home games!

Un­der ma­jor event host­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the IRFU couldn’t re­sist ref­er­ences to the 2022 Com­mon­wealth Games be­ing stripped from Dur­ban, and then later went on to neg­a­tively re­fer to South Africa’s Stan­dard and Poor’s credit rat­ing. They ne­glected to men­tion the suc­cess­ful FIFA 2012 World Cup which South Africa hosted.

It’s a dis­ap­point­ing doc­u­ment, and you have to hope that those with a vote read it thor­oughly, and ask them­selves whether they want to cast it for such sore losers. The fi­nale to the IRFU’s let­ter con­tains the re­mark­able words ‘the IRFU look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to play our role in a pos­i­tive and re­spect­ful man­ner up un­til vot­ing day on Novem­ber 15’. Pos­i­tive and re­spect­ful to­wards the South African bid? Re­ally?

Last week­end’s Baa-Baa’s v New Zealand game at­tracted around 60,000, which is a pretty im­pres­sive num­ber for a game that was es­sen­tially put on purely for en­ter­tain­ment pur­poses. Of the 46 play­ers in­volved, none were English, some­thing that has an­noyed a few peo­ple, al­though it re­ally shouldn’t.

In their own words the Bar­bar­ians is ‘a rugby club which brings to­gether play­ers from dif­fer­ent clubs to play a few matches each year to en­joy the ca­ma­raderie of the game and play at­tack­ing, ad­ven­tur­ous rugby with­out the pres­sure of hav­ing to win’. That’s splen­did, and it’s a won­der­ful tra­di­tion, but nowa­days they will al­ways to take sec­ond place to mean­ing­ful games where win­ning mat­ters.

There are those who ar­gue that the Pre­mier­ship clubs should have re­leased their play­ers to join the Baa- Baas but I found it re­ally sur­pris­ing that London Ir­ish’s Ben Franks, and Glouces­ter’s Ruan Ack­er­mann were al­lowed to play – es­pe­cially the lat­ter who’d come to the Pre­mier­ship straight af­ter the Lions’ long Su­per Rugby cam­paign. .

It’s the job of the clubs to man­age player wel­fare – if you owned a Pre­mier­ship club, would you al­low your star play­ers to turn out in a mean­ing­less fix­ture, run­ning the risk of sus­tain­ing an in­jury? There’s a limit on how many games per sea­son a player can rea­son­ably be asked to play and I’d want my play­ers play­ing for my club as much as pos­si­ble, and not in jol­lies.

I was brought up to re­vere the Baa-Baas, but the game, and the rugby world, has changed out of all recog­ni­tion since the days of ‘that’ try. The prob­lem is that some peo­ple don’t seem to have moved on since then.

The Baa-Baas and their Corinthian spirit will con­tinue for a long time to come, but their ac­cess to cur­rent internationals is likely to be lim­ited from now on.

Great spec­ta­cle: Bar­bar­ians duo Ruan Ack­er­mann and Ben Franks

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