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Rugby – A Sport in Jeopardy

Let us start with a positive, my old stomping ground in Europe. There may be some reservations about the format which was originally Covid-induced and a high likelihood of a return to the successful pool formulas. However, the quality of rugby on show has been peerless and Racing v Quins in the magnificent La Défense was an example. More so when surrounded by Jacky Lorenzetti’s world class wines!

Saracens produced an exceptional half against Lyon and were unstoppable only to be almost reeled in by a stunning fightback from the French. Even Even Etzebeth compared the Heineken Champions Cup very favourably to the Top 14 and Super Rugby competitions, calling it the best tournament in the world. So it is and we wonder if the last 16 can be possibly as exciting as last year.

I have warned about the leadership in our sport many times, and three of the CEO’s around my European Boardroom table have lost their jobs. The organiser of the Rugby World Cup has been fired and in South Africa the CEO is fighting criminal charges. I ask again that Boards and Recruitment Consultants look hard at themselves when appointing senior positions, they are failing miserably in selections they make. The new CEO of 6 Nations Tom Harrison has his background in cricket my other sporting passion. Anyone bothered to check out the reasons he departed? Sport leadership seminars seem to have become a self contained industry but we are not executing on the theory so what is the point? The interim CEO of the WRU Nigel Walker has talked about the existential risk to Welsh rugby and I have no doubt he is right – at last some honesty.

Finally, I agree totally with Sam Warburton in his analysis of the ‘tackle lower’ row. Get the tackling techniques right – professional players train so much why cannot they learn this. We did in my era and in 15 years of first class rugby I hardly saw any concussions. The irony is that the amateur game does not really have the same issue, hence the furore. Like Owen Slot, I applauded the move in concept, as I do the reduction of allowed substitutions – where is that – and ruthless treatment of players ‘clearing out’. Oh, and minimal contact in training please.Our jeopardy is not yet over – I will apply a classical analogy. The cleaning of the Augean stables has started and must continue until the values that have been created over many years in rugby are regained. We must be relentless and I remain optimistic. A little diversion called the Six Nations is upon us but the privileged positions in the stadia will be emptier than usual and some will be shifting uneasily on their seats.

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