There used to be a saying about television that we haven’t had 20 years of television but rather one year 20 times.
So it seems to be with rugby.
Issues I have raised in my past columns with The Australian continue to attract volumes of correspondence.
The democratisation of the game; the failure of rugby administrators to acknowledge and reward the enormous contribution of volunteers and the grassroots who keep the game alive; and the further proof of the extent that the so-called Giteau’s Law is damaging our game.
I have said over and over again, the role of selectors is to pick the very best Australian team, no matter where they live.
Now we learn that two weeks after the gifted Tom Banks has been offered a staggering $1.4 million a season, in Japan’s League One, which he has accepted, his teammate, Wallaby halfback Nic White, has also been presented with a huge offer.
It shouldn’t matter for Australian Rugby if the boys take the money on offer given that we don’t have the resources to compete.
But we ought to retain the capacity to pick these players if they are the best available to Australia.
Notwithstanding all of that, the day of reckoning will arrive this weekend.
I watched the Canterbury-Crusaders and the Auckland Blues last weekend.
And what a game it was!
Both teams played absolutely world-class rugby.
It was a pleasure to watch Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett do battle in what was clearly an All Black trial.
The Blues managed to sneak the win after an epic battle in Christchurch, for the first time in almost 20 years.
This weekend is the first time our boys will play the New Zealanders and it will all be staged in Melbourne.
How will we match up?
The Queensland Reds would have been a real chance against the Wellington Hurricanes but the loss of James O’Connor may well be telling.
The ACT Brumbies should beat the Dunedin Highlanders, based on recent results and this may be our best chance of the round.
I fear for the Melbourne Rebels who must take on the Canterbury-Crusaders. The Crusaders could really do some damage.
The NSW Waratahs will also be under the pump against the Waikato Chiefs.
Overall, the match ups are not too bad on paper but the game is not played on paper.
Taking a wider view of things, it must be said that the troublemakers at Rugby Australia need to wind their necks in over the Taniela Tupou contract negotiations.
Recently, sources at Rugby headquarters have blamed Brad Thorn for Tupou’s reluctance to extend his contract.
This is a contract negotiation for, in my opinion, the best prop in World Rugby.
Tupou’s agent is clearly in a very strong position.
Rugby Australia will have to dig deep to secure a deal.
The Reds have a good thing going in Brisbane and Brad Thorn can be commended for making that happen.
He is a strong leader and the perfect coach for the talented Tupou.
The media leaks out of Rugby Australia around this matter say more about their dithering to get the deal done. It is grubby and pathetic to deflect blame towards Brad Thorn.
Is it a coincidence that Brad Thorn gets a hand grenade thrown his way by Rugby Australia shortly after publicly acknowledging his desire to be the next Wallaby coach?
Tupou can demand big money anywhere in the world.
If Rugby Australia scrapped Giteau’s Law completely, Tupou could play his club rugby in Japan and still play for the Wallabies.
If the leadership at Rugby Australia can’t get the game financially strong enough to keep our world-class players, then stop blaming Tupou and Thorn.
In my last column I promised to address the red card issue and make some sense of all the noise.
As it currently stands, World Rugby are petrified about the concussion issue and potential litigation.
At the last World Cup, they asked the referees to dish out lots of red cards for incidents involving head knocks.
Clearly there was a lot of controversy around “red card” calls that spoiled many contests and altered the outcome of matches.
As you will be aware, World Rugby have now introduced a “20 minute red card” where the offending player is sent off and replaced 20 minutes later by a replacement player.
They are calling it a trial but it appears the boss of World Rugby, Alan Gilpin, is commited to the idea.
Clearly many fans are confused and are asking why use “red cards” at all when we could simply use the “on report” system run in the NRL and the AFL; in that way the game is not slowed down and the contest remains fair for 80 minutes.
Gilpin should listen.
Out of interest, the two areas that create the most head knocks are two-man tackles and contestable kicks.
When it comes to two-man tackles, when one player tackles low, the other must tackle high.
Sometimes that means the ball carrier makes contact around the shoulders.
It is unfortunate but no coach on the planet can ask both players to tackle low.
They will clash heads and there will be even more head knocks and concussions.
As for contestable kicks, players often jump for the ball and end up on their backs or heads.
This can easily be addressed by World Rugby.
Ban box kicks. They are a blot on the game.
Most contestable kicks in our game are box kicks.
The game would be far more attractive if box kicking was eliminated.
We want to see sweeping counterattack and this can only happen if there is space for the attackers to wind up.
Mr Gilpin and his mates at World Rugby can improve our game by introducing the “on report” system for high tackles and banning bloody box kicks!
But when was a rugby administrator ever seen to be doing anything that might grow our game?