The Offload: Australia is here to help the Lions tour and more

Bernard Jackman’s criticism of Pro14 referees was not rant, he provided the examples

The British and Irish Lions are considering an offer by Australia to host the summer series against South Africa. File photograph: Getty images

The British and Irish Lions are considering an offer by Australia to host the summer series against South Africa. File photograph: Getty images

 

Lions v Boks rescued Down Under

On the premise that people get the politicians they deserve, the island of Ireland is carrying very bad karma into the 2020s.

A conversation with Rob Penney late Saturday night - early Sunday morning Sydney time - was fresh in the mind while digesting the ‘thumbs up’ emoji that was deemed a suitable response by the Irish government’s minister for health to the chief medical officer.

Such a blatant lack of mature communication promises to keep crowds locked out of stadiums well after the money runs out.

“Gladys Berejiklian, the New South Wales Premier, has been amazing,” said Penney, the former Munster and current NSW Waratahs coach. “Unlike all the countries struggling with Covid it has not been used as a massive political football.”

Penney generously took a call to talk about Paul O’Connell’s big leap into coaching, before warming to news that the Lions series against South Africa could happen Down Under.

“Couple of tests in Australia, couple of tests in New Zealand, where they put a moat around their islands and are living Covid free, how good would that be?”

Sounds too good to be true, Rob. Local franchises, like the Waratahs, would provide ideal warm up matches for both touring sides. Pack every stadium to the rafters (the Aussies are only seeking to cover costs). Park all the egos and do what’s best for the game. Fat chance of that happening under the current, and we use this term lightly, ‘leadership’ in Dublin.

The never-ending numbers tell no lie. South Africa suffered 318 deaths on January 30th. The UK had a staggering 1,200. In the starkest possible contrast, Perth “snapped” into a five-day lockdown after one positive test.

With the Australian Open set to become the gold standard for hosting a global sporting events during this pandemic, sending the Lions series to the safest place on earth should be a fait accompli.

Word of mouth

“What we learnt from the Tri Nations last year and the tennis that’s happening now is that Australia can successfully stage global tournaments in a Covid world. It’s particularly tough in the UK and South Africa at the moment and I believe the more international rugby that gets played here, the better. We’re here to help.”

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan offers to host the Lions versus Springboks test series in July.

Jackman’s calculated rant

To rant is to lose control. Listening to Bernard Jackman’s criticism of Pro14 referees, namely Irish duo Frank Murphy and Andrew Brace, the former Leinster hooker sounded like he knew precisely what he was saying and who he was talking to.

As Jackman calmly explained on the Rugby Weekly podcast, a toxic disconnect exists between the provincial coaches and the “apologists,” as they have taken to branding the referees’ Monday morning email.

Referee Andrew Brace during the Pro14 clash between Munster and Leinster. Photograph: Inpho
Referee Andrew Brace during the Pro14 clash between Munster and Leinster. Photograph: Inpho

“Unfortunately, the standard of officiating in the Pro14 is not of the level required,” said Jackman. “[THE REFEREES] are making stuff up as they go along. The biggest issue is the lack of personality or the way the referees talk to players and coaches. I don’t know if you have noticed it but there is a big friction on the pitch. That is never going to lead to a positive environment.

“The best referees I have ever had and seen have been able to build a relationship with the players. At the moment it is ‘I am the boss and you are the schoolboy’ and when you go down that line you better know your laws so you cannot be held for criticism. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.”

Jackman provided several examples. This was no rant. It was a calculated use of the media to transfer a message, from players and coaches to the referees, that has been getting lost in bureaucracy.

By the numbers

40 minutes of rugby played by Tadhg Furlong after 11 months rehabbing a back/calf issue should be enough to make the Ireland bench in Cardiff behind Andrew Porter.

Lightning strikes twice for Arno Botha

Jaco Peyper was not messing about during Saturday’s Currie Cup final between the Bulls and Sharks at Loftus Versfeld.

“Lightning within 7km we have to leave the field,” the veteran referee informed the players 23 minutes into what amounted to a mini-Springbok trial.

The storm passed and the game resumed with former Munster backrow Arno Botha proving the hero when muscling over for his second try in the last seconds of extra-time to secure the Bulls first title since 2009.

Considering Duane Vermeulen - the giant Springbok African number eight - looked like an average sized human, the game provided a glimpse into the challenge facing Irish teams when the South Africans attempt to conquer the Pro16 next season.

The days of Leinster seconds gliding past half-hearted Scarlets can soon be replaced by the need to somehow contain ridiculously talented wingers like Sbu Nkosi. The competition is desperately needed.

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