Battle lines drawn
'Everyone In' - the sponsorship slogan poured down our throats this past year is ridiculed by the IRFU's failure to communicate directly with their players about news of a 20 percent pay cut before it was published by The Irish Times on Friday. Or deny that figure is an imminent reality.
Maybe the Lansdowne Road accountants looked at how much they contribute to Rugby Players Ireland and felt chief executive Simon Keogh didn't deserve a heads up.
Either way, the muddy waters communication strategy has led to this: “We are very disappointed to see recent media reports about proposed player salary cuts,” stated Keogh’s legal counsel Richard McElwee on Sunday morning. “We are in the very early phase of discussions with the IRFU to establish fully the current and long term financial position of the union and only then can the players fully consider any proposal.”
Translation: how do you expect us to trust the IRFU about how much money exists in the rainy day fund when you are playing this sort of game? Philip Browne has been unequivocal: "Ultimately if we have to cut wages, we have to cut wages."
The RPI members must be desperate to hear from their chairman Rob Kearney. If not for public consumption - although that's where the battle lines have been drawn - at least in private as elite players face losing up and over €250,000 on three year deals. Considering most of them will never come close to earning current salaries in their post rugby lives, you can imagine stress levels spiking before the new wage structure comes into effect on July 1st.
Maybe the ‘team of us’ philosophy can be salvaged by a sneak peak into the books at the upcoming IRFU AGM. Don’t hold your breath.
By the numbers: 20
- The IRFU reportedly intends to shave off 20 per cent of player salaries in order to save €13 million.
Word of mouth
"It literally could happen to the man in the street where a wrong prescription is dispensed." Ian Flanagan, the Munster CEO, revisits the tale of two James Cronin's after Sport Ireland publicly states the doping ban was lenient.
Kiss, Kiss, Test, Test
Beat this headline: “Kiwi NRL star quarantined for kissing reporter on the cheek.” It was just a peck but into isolation Rugby League legend Benji Marshall must go. Sign of times. You’re not the first Benjii, nor will you be the last to break pandemic protocols.
Marshall - who flirted unsuccessfully with rugby union in 2014 - and Channel 7 journalist Michelle Bishop are awaiting test results for Covid-19 after the old friends made contact in the West Tigers car park. There is photographic evidence of their exchange.
“Just goes to show you, we can all get caught up in life and forget what kind of world we are living in at the moment,” Bishop tweeted. “Off to be tested #innocent #awkward #apologies.”
NRL guidelines prohibit contact with anyone outside the sport’s bubble (except pre-approved people in their homes). There was no need to drop the 35-year-old as the Tigers had already done so. That’s why he kissed Bishop, to say thanks for a “chin up” text message.
This is sure to reoccur especially when the most affectionate athletes and journalists cross paths after being kept apart for so long. Leinster have confirmed the Joe Schmidt handshake routine that used to begin every day in UCD is no more.
Kissing is also banned.
A large and technically proficient tighthead prop is the most valuable commodity in rugby.
Someone like the Blackrock reared 24-year-old Oli Jager or Trevor Brennan's giant offspring Daniel Brennan are at the beginning of contracts in Canterbury and Montpellier after both rejected moves to Irish provinces.
Leinster are well stocked with Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter - despite losing two young tightheads as Roman Salanoa moved to Munster and Jack Aungier joined Connacht - but the other three provinces should have been banging down Jager's door.
Munster has not had an international calibre tighthead since Springbok BJ Botha left in 2016. Presumably, Graham Rowntree hopes the South African 21-year-old Kenyon Knox, who they recruited straight from school, will move past Stephen Archer and John Ryan next season.
Ulster were heavily reliant on the injury prone Marty Moore (29) since his arrival in Belfast from Leinster, via an uninspiring two seasons at Wasps, until 21-year-old Tom O'Toole muscled into the Ireland reckoning last season.
Dan McFarland could have built a menacing scrum upon Jager’s back. Instead, the Crusaders have him locked up until 2022.