by COLIN RENTON
Chile gains as German strike heats up
Germany went down 32-10 in their final autumn test against Chile. It was a match they would normally have expected to win, but the Germans were forced to field a weakened side, pulled together two days before the match, after a host of front line players went on strike. The overseas contingent in the squad – among them Aberdeen Grammar prop Matthias Schösser – were not part of the dispute which came after billionaire backer Hans-Peter Wild, who is also the owner of Stade Francais, reduced the level of funding he provided to the German Federation (DRV). Wild has bankrolled the DRV to the tune of 30 million euros over the past decade.
It’s kicking off state side
American rugby was touted for inclusion in the expanded PRO14 before organisers opted to include the two South African sides. But the Americans are now going it alone with a professional competition that will be played in seven cities, starting in April. And there are suggestions that the number of teams will increase the following season, with a New York-based outfit boasting UFC star Conor McGregor among the investors, rumoured to be waiting in the wings. A television package is in place for the inaugural competition.
In Dublin Fair City, where the rugby is…
Suggestions that Ireland is the self-appointed global epicentre of the sport were enhanced in November with the decision to move the International Rugby Players Association to new headquarters in Dublin – a move that had the backing of co-presidents Johnny Sexton and Richie McCaw – to be closer to the base of World Rugby. However, all did not go according to plan on the Emerald Isle, with the news that France had been chosen to host the 2023 World Cup, ahead of Ireland and South Africa – a process that did little to enhance the sport’s reputation. And then there was the renegotiating of RBS sponsorship of the Six Nations, a tournament which has its administration base in, erm… Dublin. The organisers mistakenly believed they were in a strong enough position to demand a higher sum than the £15 million offered by RBS at the start of the year, prompting RBS to walk away. Cue what appeared to be a scramble to find a backer. Fortunately, a saviour was found in the form of NatWest. The sum was agreed at the reduced level of £11 million for one year. NatWest, of course, is part of the RBS Group so customers of the bank should be happy that bosses are being frugal with your money. And perhaps it’s time for questions to be asked about the Irish stranglehold.
Accies benefit from marital bliss
It’s not uncommon for sporting spouses to travel the world in support of a partner’s career. And in the case of Conor Hirini, his decision to base himself in Europe to be closer to his wife has been to the benefit of Edinburgh Accies. While the utility back is helping boost the Raeburn Place club’s bid for promotion to the BT Premiership, his wife, Sara Goss, has been starring for the New Zealand women’s sevens team, with which she won an Olympic silver medal in Rio last year. Being based in Europe means Hirini can catch up with Goss more frequently.
Home from home for Cramond
Andy Cramond has wasted no time in settling into his new surroundings at RC Vannes in Brittany. The 23-year-old former Scotland Under-20 international signed for the ProD2 club as medical cover after a loan spell with Gloucester, having previously played with Toulon and Pau. His three year spell with the Toulon academy means he is not classed as a foreign player under French rules. Cramond was welcomed for his home debut – a comfortable win over Dax in front of 8,000 spectators – with the skirl of the bagpipes, a familiar sound at a club that is proud of its Celtic roots.
Hooper tops the chart of shame
It was a dismal autumn series for Australian captain Michael Hooper, ending with that Murrayfield thrashing. And, on a personal basis, the flanker claimed a world record that he would rather not hold. A ten minute spell in the sin bin during the defeat against England was the eighth of his international career. That made him the most yellow carded player in international history, one ahead of Jamie Cudmore, Bryan Habana and Marco Bortolami.
Plenty of promise for future priests
Few of the game’s followers will have heard of Rugby Club de la Terre Promise (Promised Land but also rugby slang for the in-goal area), a team based just along the Mediterranean coast from the mighty Toulon. And yet the club was the subject of a French TV documentary in November. The main talking point was the composition of the side, which is made up entirely of trainee priests. The pre-match huddle took on a more reverent tone with a prayer in Latin, and the codes for moves were named after books of the bible. However, all did not go well for the priests as their first match of the season ended in defeat after they discovered the Promised Land only twice in a tough 80 minutes.