The Six Nations hangover kicked in almost immediately, the main issue centring on Freddie Steward’s rescinded red, sadly taking away from Ireland’s peerless performances and a sensational tournament. The answer is simple- publish the protocol but give the referee the final and irrevocable say in the name of rugby. They are the essential oxygen for our game and my admiration has been long declared. It is the administrators who take away or enhance their empathy.
Meantime and elsewhere, with 7 months to the World Cup I have 7 snapshots from our beautifully flawed game, only 10 days’ worth!
1.Welsh Rugby looked into the abyss and stepped back with their vote for change. They still teeter on the edge; the hard yards are yet to come. The ‘people in the room’ will be the key.
Peter Thomas, Chairman of Cardiff Rugby, died this week after a long illness. I will never forget the excited hug I received as Cardiff beat Gloucester by a single point late on in the Challenge Cup Final in Bilbao. He had brought out the entire staff of Cardiff Rugby as if a family occasion and they rightfully celebrated together. A great club man and servant of rugby, RIP.
2. Is the Bathwater a little less murky. Their first win of 2023 was a long time coming – anyone spot the pace and vision in midfield which created all the tries? A rebuild in culture and approach will only be evident over time. Being ‘tough to beat’ is a horrible strapline, and this performance demands something more, even with Bath’s run in to season end? 2023-24 it is then for a Russell- inspired revival, no relegation this year, phew!
3. Women’s Six Nations is overshadowed by the retirement of the highest capped player of all time, Sarah Hunter. She deserved a RWC winners medal, didn’t we all! It could still happen for Stuart Hogg I suppose but anyway he lit the touchpaper for this current Scotland team – their RWC pool match v Ireland in the Stade de France is the biggest game in their recent history. He retires full of credit, gained around the world.
4. EPCR (Champions Cup) likely to go back to old pre-Covid pool format, a great decision, and I am fascinated to see where the next Finals will be played!? Have your passport ready!
5. The future of rugby in England is debated everywhere and some horrible statistics unearthed. England U20’s squad had played between them 8 senior professional games v France U20’s at 108, hardly surprising they took a hammering. We should hang our heads in shame to let down our young players like that.
6. There is a further assessment of how much the concussion lawsuits will cost the game, possibly £300m. Our devotion to player health and welfare must be borne out by actions. Steward’s rescinded red was right, but we must simply continue to build the protection with due regard for why people play and watch our game.
7. Last – and not least. One of the traditional and ignored pathways to the top exists in the Championship, England Rugby please note. I sense a cracker up at Bedford, where the Blues take on Ealing Trailfinders. They haven’t lost at home for a long while, and an end-to-end classic awaits, weather permitting. My declared interest in Ealing T does not diminish the many friendships I have at Goldington Road, with some mighty clashes up there when I was a player.
Well, that was the end of March, what next?! Let us see how the rugby ball bounces.