Oval Talk

Big hand for rugby chiefs

Oval Talk

View photo

.
Rugby's chiefs have not always got it right in the 15 or so years the game has been professional, but recently they cannot be accused of a failure to act when the sport requires them to.

In the past couple of months we have seen the collective decision to change the tackle law, one that has freed up the attacking team and rescued the sport - and especially the Guinness Premiership - from slipping further into a defence-dominated mire.

And even more recently we have the IRB's confirmation of a return to old-fashioned tours by the leading nations, ones that will take in a series of Tests as well as midweek games.

England get the ball rolling with their five-match trip to Australia and New Zealand next month, while New Zealand recently announced a series of blockbuster tours that will see England, Ireland and France visit the Land of the Long White Cloud between 2012 and 2014.

Gone will be the days when teams fly halfway across the world for a one-off Test, and in their place we can look forward to periods which allow the general public the chance to properly get to know the players in a touring party.

Oval Talk was never quite sure what purpose the modern in-and-out trips served anyway. A quick-fire way to boost the union coffers certainly, but as preparation for a World Cup, Six Nations or Tri-Nations they seemed wholly inadequate.

Head coaches were never going to see the mettle of their players properly tested on a short trip to Auckland; whereas a midweek game on a cold, wet night in Invercargill as part of a difficult tour is a different matter all together.

So OT welcomes the return of the old fashioned tour, especially as OT is old enough to remember the magnificent All Blacks side that visited Britain and Ireland in 1978, or the great Wallabies team that secured the Grand Slam in 1984.

Indeed, such was the impact of those tours on one impressionable youth, OT can name almost as many players from those vintage sides as in the current Test teams.

Those All Blacks and Wallabies became household names to rugby fans as they wreaked havoc throughout the British Isles, and the odd occasion when they did get beaten it had a profound effect on local rugby - as Munster's victory over New Zealand in 1978 testifies.

Rugby used to occupy a different ground to other professional sports because of the access fans had to the leading players. And while we can hardly expect to rub shoulders with them again in clubhouse bars around the country, the IRB's ruling is at least a welcome change for the future.

++++++++++

OT cannot imagine anything more terrifying than being alone near the summit of Mount Everest, a position former England wing Josh Lewsey found himself in at the weekend when he was forced back from the summit due to broken breathing apparatus.

Reports on the climb's official website explained how Lewsey was forced to descend rapidly due to the lack of oxygen, passing the dead bodies of climbers who on previous expeditions had failed to make it down safely.

Lewsey has yet to confirm whether he will make another ascent on the world's highest mountain, but OT wishes him well with whatever decision he makes.

View Comments