by COLIN RENTON
Welsh union apologises for poor timing
The Welsh Rugby Union has apologised for the uncertainty caused by Project Reset at a time when the mood in The Principality should have been on a high. While Wales were proving invincible in the Guinness Six Nations, the administrators did their best to quell any enthusiasm by announcing a merger of Ospreys and Scarlets. That decision was reversed after Warren Gatland’s men secured a Grand Slam and the announcement was accompanied by an apology over the timing of the aborted merger. Project Reset was designed to increase funding in the Welsh game and enable the pro teams to compete financially with clubs in England and France.
Georgia punching above their weight
Eddie Jones is known to have a creative approach to keeping his players on their toes. One of his ideas during the Six Nations was to test his pack against the renowned scrummagers of Georgia, who are now coached by former England front-rower Graham Rowntree. The venue was St Edward’s School in Oxford, where the pupils were invited to watch but asked not to use their mobiles to record events. That’s perhaps fortunate, since the first scrum engagement ended in a punch up. Tempers calmed but a second effort also finished with an exchange of blows. The rest of the session passed without incident, although Jones failed to say whether he had deliberately engineered the situation to toughen up his men.
No Munster penalties in Kings whitewash
The value of having Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14 has been a subject for debate. The South African outfit has struggled to be consistently competitive. So it was no surprise when Kings suffered a 43-0 defeat against Munster in Cork. However, the match was noteworthy for the fact that Munster did not concede a single penalty throughout the 80 minutes. For their part, Kings were penalised 15 times and had three yellow cards.
No pain in Spain
March was a good month for Spanish rugby. The country’s sevens team earned legendary status and even had a mention in the football-heavy sports daily Marca after beating the All Blacks at the Vancouver Sevens. There was also a comfortable 47-9 win over Belgium in the Rugby Europe Championship – the second tier Six Nations competition – that had more than a whiff of revenge about it. The match took place a year after the sides had met in a World Cup qualifier that ended acrimoniously. Spain complained about the appointment of a Romanian referee given that Romania qualified after Belgium beat the Spaniards. All three sides were subsequently disciplined, handing Russia a place in Japan. The Madrid result helped Spain to finish second in this year’s European competition, which was won by Grand Slammers Georgia, who secured overall victory for a second successive year.
Chile raising the temperature on sevens circuit
Chile may not be known as a rugby force, but the South Americans gave a hint of the progress they are making when they held South Africa to a 5-5 draw in their pool match at Las Vegas Sevens. Chile then beat France in the first round of the Challenge Trophy before losing to Scotland, who went on to lift the silverware when they saw off Spain in the final. However, the Chileans did enough in the tournament to underline the progress they are making.
Coin throwing a cause for concern
In a disturbing development, the assistant referee Thomas Charabas was struck on the forehead by a coin believed to have been thrown by an Agen supporter during the Top 14 defeat at home to Clermont Auvergne.
Aussies deny match fixing
A story in the Sydney Morning Herald alleged that there were strong suspicions of fixing the outcome of a Test match. The report claimed that an investigation may have been conducted several years ago after the Wallabies lost a match they had been expected to win. And it suggested that an official had recommend that the case be reopened. Rugby Australia issued a statement insisting that the claims were untrue, saying: “Rugby Australia wishes to confirm it has seen no evidence in regards to inappropriate betting activity or match fixing and has no record of any such investigation occurring in the past.” A statement from Australia’s Rugby Union Players’ Association was equally vehement in its response, referring to “unsubstantiated allegations”.
Player safety prompts experimental law changes
Rocked by the death of four young players in the past year, French rugby will introduce experimental rules next season. A trial in amateur and youth rugby will include lowering the tackle height to waist level and making it an offence for two players to combine in a tackle. The French Rugby Federation is also seeking approval to introduce the changes at academy level. In addition to making the game safer, it is hoped that the change will improve the quality of rugby, with less focus being on defence.
Sunwolves soon to be extinct
Sunwolves will disappear from Super Rugby after the 2020 season. The tournament organisers SANZAAR are believed to have demanded 1 billion yen (almost £7 million) from the Japanese franchise to retain a place in the competition. No other team pays these fees. The competition will revert to a 14 team competition from 2021 onwards.
Remembering the ruck
Here’s Doddie with a reminder of how the game has changed:
How has rugby changed since the 1990s? Here's @DoddieWeir5 to demonstrate (with a little help from his friends).
— Black & White (@bwpublishing) March 21, 2019