12 November 2010
Stifling Venter's right to reply makes me gag
BRENDAN VENTER: Fined by the ERC
TONY ROCHE believes the punishment handed out by ERC to Saracens boss Brendan Venter is an act of petty revenge
the game virtually unwatchable before reverting to the original version. Does any other suffer from the level of laws interference as endured by rugby union? We actually had an 'interpretation' change DURING last season. What fun for coaches and players alike, let alone the paying public.
CCASIONS that unite the ranks of the sporting media are as rare as a set of hen's
dentures, so many congratulations to the bully-boy buffoons who comprise ERC. Their ludicrous treatment of Dr.
Brendan Venter of Saracens in fining the club's rugby director approximately £22,000 in proper money for speaking the truth beggars belief.
And interestingly, every rugby writer spoken with since expresses similar sentiments. We appear to have reached a situation where something can clearly be wrong on the field of play, yet honest comments on same is forbidden by an assortment of faceless 'independent' disciplinary panels. I'm not sure if these people actually understand the concept of free speech. Certainly their cobblers-speak about 'going through the correct channels' is just another way of saying shut up and do what we say. One way of resolving this growing strangulation of free speech is to take the amount fined and instead of sending ERC a Euro, spend it on a QC and go to court.
Another is to make very sure that the next time the 'participation agreement' comes up for signing, don't. No clubs, no ERC. Get an agreement that allows people to speak their minds.
It's one thing to scream foul- mouthed abuse at an official, which happened in a recent Premiership tie
So to hammer the man with so hefty a fine, part suspended or not, is more of an offence than any Venter is alleged to have committed. All the signs are that Venter and Saracens, weary of the whole circus, will simply cough up and elect for a quiet life. That would be mistake. Because it is difficult not to align what happened in Dublin to what didn't happen in Cardiff. Venter planned a squad-bonding trip to Germany way ahead of the annual Heineken Cup 'launch' that commands the presence of coaches and captains. This year it was held in the Welsh capital, but Saracens captain Steve Borthwick was missing. His club considered his presence in Germany more important than having snaps taken wearing trainers.
The fuss that followed was hilarious. So have we got ourselves an example of revenge here rather than solely justice? Do the commissars truly dislike Venter because he has the cheek to speak his mind?
refereed by a Frenchman, something particularly unpleasant as it was picked up by a visiting radio broadcaster's mike', forcing his studio to request he issue an apology on air to offended listeners.
That is unacceptable and should be dealt with swiftly. Only it isn't. Venter's 'crime' was to speak up for all the coaches too twitchy to speak out when things are obviously wrong. Venter got the blazers sweating
before the start of the Heineken Cup campaign when he warned that there were dark clouds ahead in terms of implementing the clear directive to emerge from the International Rugby Board concerning refereeing the breakdown.
He requested a conference so that
officials from abroad were all clear about what was right and wrong. What happened was that some foreign referees were put in charge of Premiership games. Venter's fears were
Wembley last month when French referee Christophe Berdos failed to do as instructed during Saracens tie against Leinster, and actually appeared to implement the previous directive, which favoured the defending team. This was clearly wrong, and Venter
expressed that view afterwards. He could have gone on and reminded everyone that this whole mess is the direct result of meddling officials, tinkering with the laws and making
Saracens chairman Nigel Wray has put his heart, soul and wallet into the club since the game went open in 1995. Wray is a polite, quietly-spoken old school gentleman who considers a handshake as valid as a contract written in blood. Here's Wray's take on something far too serious to let lie. "One little thing perhaps worth mentioning in the overall game is the tendency for bodies to regard themselves as being above criticism. Why is that?
"I can be criticised, you can be criticised, so why not the referee? "Government can be criticised so why not governing bodies ? I agree that criticism cannot be foul-mouthed, but objective, honest criticism from an honest man is surely what we want to hear."
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR SAINTS NEW BOY
Testing the fans grey matter
HOWlikely is it that New Zealand will light up their 'Grand Slam' seeking tour of Britain and Ireland by trotting out for a Test match in pink socks or green shorts?
Any chance of South Africa appearing in a fetching off-the- shoulder lilac number or the Wallabies sporting red shorts? So why are England poncing about
in grey? Socks last weekend, shirts on Saturday. What is the next marketing
mistake to scar the squad?
England wear white shirts and shorts with navy socks that have white tops. Or at least those used to comprise the national playing strip. Who can forget the wretched switch to what resembled blood- splattered jersey with matching red and white blotched socks?
Then it was change again, and again, and again. Get your wallets out suckers.
MUCH fun been had with the title of the LV=Cup (Anglo-Welsh), not least because of the bizarre system where you are in a group of four clubs, none of whom you actually play during the qualifying stage.
But the competition delivered some very good games over the weekend, battles featuring a number of young bloods handed their first-team opportunity. There can be no better way of assessing your true strength in depth when your Test stars are away with their squads.
But one player caught these eyes, a
25 year-old plasterer in Northampton's second-row at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
Dan Sanderson has spent his
formative years playing for the likes of Rolls Royce and Derby RFC. Until, that is, his name found its way onto the desk of Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder.
The former England fullback duly invited Sanderson to Franklin's Gardens for a trial, and is impressed with what he has seen to date. Sanderson played well on Sunday, lasted the pace, stood his corner in lineout and scrum. He still earns his living plastering, training with the club when he has time. Mallinder is a strong supporter of the academy system. But he meant every word when also expressing his delight that there is still an opportunity for the "late-developer" to make a mark in the professional game.
RUGBY TIMES MAILBAG
Dear Mr Roche, I very much enjoy you column. Could you please draw attention to the condoned endorsed anarchy now being permitted in the contemporary game?
The basic vital laws of the game are still being 'bent' to indulge temporary whims; so-called 'decoy' runners can precede the ball carrier when in an indisputably off-side position, players around a ruck can be tackled without the ball, the two-handed shove is now commonplace and shoulder-barging overlooked. Scrum-halves put the ball in crooked,
throwers stand in the field of play when throwing-in to the lineout. Are assistant referees blind or have they been 'got at'? If a player is permitted to leap over the touchline to save a lineout - legally, if his feet land back in the field of play; why can a player get away with kicking a ball to touch inside his own 22 metre line when his feet subsequently land outside the 22? All of these are against the consistent working of the laws of the game, (and the wording, as in the painting of the upper 'H' of the goal-posts in anything other than white, at Gloucester for example). If stiff- arm tackles are condemned, why are fore- arms guards allowed to be worn? Anarchy does not suit a violent game, the laws are intended to be protective. Crooked feeds are rightly pounced upon by observant commentators but non 'knock-ons', off the chest, unnoticed and acceptable by even top-class referees. Anarchic ignorance in the commentary box is no help: why is it that no All-Black ever 'becomes isolated' (i.e. unsupported by his fellow players). (If Tait, in the last RWC final, had been an All Black we'd have won!).
Keep up the good work, best wishes.
PS have you noticed how the Sky's Rugby Club is obsessed with the size of threequarters? They once lobbied successfully for Vainikolo to be in the England team, and now they're striving to get Banahan picked as a centre, despite his total lack of game-management skills.
PPS I played for Bath's first team as an 18- year-old, having been a schoolboy international (over 50 years ago)
David Hancock, Witney
SO, Andy Gomarsall "doesn't have a problem" with non-England people playing for England. Hape, Fourie, Flutey, Barritt... neither
apparently do the England coaching team. I read Michael Claassens has signed for Bath for another three years so he now qualifies. Good! Stephen Donald is reported to be coming to Europe, perhaps England. Good! Shame that Carl Hayman has left Newcastle Falcons. Poor old Vainikolo, Reihana and Henry Paul. Odd, isn't it, that the England coaching team object to England players plying their trade abroad (only over the Channel in France for goodness sake) yet they welcome with open arms any adult foreigner already plying their RU trade over here.
Roll Up. Roll Up. England places freely available. Qualifications? Only to have been born abroad (preferably SANZAR) and lived in England for three years. Good job, Mr Gomarsall, that the England team of your career years, did not have such foreigners in your old position or you would not have got your chance to play all those times for England.
PS On Saturday, as the TV cameras panned across the players' faces during "God Save The Queen", Shontayne Hape wasn't even moving his lips. Says it all, doesn't it? Colin Maroney, N Lancing
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