Is this the Future

Premiership clubs asked to close academies and switch to six regional talent hubs

Plan drawn up by Edward Griffiths envisages players graduating to Championship and, after at least a year, qualifying for Premiership draft

Spotted in the Teletub paper. Note the Prem Vlubs stop paying for the Accadamies and the Championship Clubs fund the hubs to get 1 years access to the trainees. The hubs based on 2 Prem clubs & a Uni. How would ghat work for the Pirates or the far North?

Also splis the Championship into 2 regions. I like that idea

New Thread – Best Number 12

As Grump seems to be AWOL and Mani is complaining (he sounds more like a back than a forward at the moment) time for a new thread. At one point we were discussing the best players at each position and we stopped at 11/14. I think that those threads lost steam as we have clearly covered all the important positions and now just have the girls to discuss.

I don’t think 12 is a position that has produced a load of talent Jean De Villiers would be my SA pick, probably Carling for England. Ma’a Nonu from NZ. Yannick Jauzion for France, D’arcy for Ireland (OK I’m stretching there) . Scott Gibbs = there’s a name I can get behind mainly since I don’t want to be in front of him. Because I’m feeling all inclusive today perhaps John Leslie from Scotland. (Only joking Jambo).

Any other thoughts on this any other rugby matter, pictures of pies or invitations to socially distanced drinks welcome.

6+2 Nations Tournament in the Autumn

The Irish Times is suggesting there will be a 6+2 Nations tournament this autumn, incorporating Georgia and Fiji (as their players are mainly spread through France and England anyway).

2 groups of 4 (so minimum of 3 matches each) followed by a Final on Dec 5th.

I for one would love to see it happen…

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World Rugby is hoping to provide some clarity this week on a Test match fixture list for the remainder of the year, including dates and kick-off times for the outstanding 2020 Six Nations Championship matches and potentially an eight-team tournament that would involve Ireland, England Scotland, Wales, France, Italy, Fiji and Georgia and culminate in a final on December 5th.

Rugby’s global governing body rescheduled a meeting originally pencilled in for the end of last month in the hope that the additional timeframe would assist in brokering an agreement in relation to Test rugby for the remainder of the calendar year.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland are expected to play Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, October 24th and France in Paris on October 31st, coronavirus permitting. Ireland were due to host Australia, South Africa and Japan over successive weekends, starting on November 7th with a clash against Dave Rennie’s Wallabies.

However, given the Covid-19 pandemic there is little prospect of any southern hemisphere teams travelling north, so instead in a bid to boost revenue for the beleaguered unions, there is a proposal currently being thrashed out to run an eight-team tournament; two pools of four teams, each country plays three matches, with those who finish top of the respective groups meeting in a final on December 5th.

There has been plenty of media speculation, especially in England, as to the identity of the two countries who will supplement the Six Nations’ constituents. The 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) tournament hosts Japan, and Fiji, have been regularly mentioned but it makes more sense that due to coronavirus and travel restrictions for Georgia to be chosen ahead of the Japan.

The majority of the Fijian and Georgian squads play professional rugby in France and Britain which would facilitate the two countries playing in the tournament, minimising travel and the attendant restrictions. The inclusion of a brace of Tier 2 nations would also be a positive step down a road with some way still to travel.

Georgia won all five games in winning the 2019 Rugby Europe Championship, including victories in Romania and Russia. Indeed they have won nine of the last 10 tournaments in that regard and there has been a growing clamour for them to be added to the premier European tournament, the Six Nations or at least be afforded a two-leg relegation-promotion playoff.

While that doesn’t appear likely in the short term, an opportunity to test their mettle against the Six Nations teams would be a decent platform to press claims for future inclusion. If Georgia wants to make a statement about where they are rugby-wise in global terms, this would be the ideal time.

The Georgians won one pool match, against Uruguay at the RWC in Japan, while managing a very creditable 27-8 defeat to Australia. The majority of their squad play rugby in France and it would be reasonably straightforward for them to base themselves there while playing the three matches.

The Daily Telegraph has suggested that Wales are set to play a number of matches, including their re-fixed Six Nations game against Scotland, in London, three at Twickenham and one at West Ham’s London Stadium.

Wales have home advantage in the game against the Scots and the suggestion is that match will be played at the London Stadium, while the Welsh would look to play their other ‘home’ games in the eight-team tournament at Twickenham. The Principality Stadium in Cardiff is currently a field hospital and is expected to maintain that status for the foreseeable future.

An attendance of 40,000 supporters even with current social distancing regulations in England is apparently possible according to sources in Wales and the Welsh Rugby Union are “in advanced negotiations” with their English counterparts.

There is no doubt that it would be mutually beneficial as the English RFU will benefit from a rental agreement on their facility and will help as they bid to recoup some revenue on what is forecasted to be a £107 million loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rugby team whose political stance cost them their lives

A powerful and little known story from Argentina

Discovering more felt even more necessary having spoken to Claudio Gómez, an Argentine journalist and author of Maten al Rugbier (Kill the Rugby Player), the definitive book about the disappearance of 20 players from La Plata, one of the country’s main clubs, because of their left-wing activism.

Even in Argentina their disappearance among the thousands of the “desaparecidos” — 15 of the 20 dead players have never been accounted for — is something that he strongly feels the sporting community neglects.

To understand more, we have to take ourselves to the tumult of Argentina under Isabel Perón, who served as president between 1974 and 1976 before she was ousted by a right-wing military coup.

We must transport ourselves, too, to the clubhouse of this rugby team in La Plata, the coastal city that is a short drive from Buenos Aires, where middle-class and left-leaning athletes gathered to play but also to discuss their politics and active resistance. Some of these men modelled themselves as a latter-day Che Guevara as well as keen sportsmen.

“In 1973 and 1974 they had put together a great team with great players,” Gómez explains, noting that La Plata was becoming renowned as the leading force in a growing minority sport. “Little by little it was decimated.”

Hernan Rocca, the scrum half, was the first to be executed, found blindfolded and murdered with as many as 19 gunshot wounds in 1975. The first three disappearances from the rugby club would fall in the Isabelita period.

Rocca’s team-mates were on a tour to Europe when they learnt of the killing. “When they returned nothing was the same,” Gómez says.

Legend has it that for the first match back against Champagnat a minute’s silence turned into ten minutes of mourning but also of defiance. When a try was scored the entire team jumped on each other in solidarity or perhaps bracing themselves for what was to come.

General Videla presents the hosts Argentina with the 1978 World Cup

General Videla presents the hosts Argentina with the 1978 World Cup

There had been 1,500 political murders in 1975 but things were about to get much worse after the military coup of March 24, 1976. The regime was ruthless with anyone suspected of involvement with the revolutionary left and its resistance of kidnappings and bombings.

“As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure,” General Jorge Rafael Videla, leader of the military junta, declared. By June 1978, Videla was presenting football’s World Cup trophy at the River Plate stadium while, less than a mile away, dissidents were being tortured and executed at the most notorious detention centre in the heart of the city.

The 20 players from La Plata club would be among an estimated 30,000 who disappeared before the military regime was overthrown in 1983. Otilio Pascua was among them, taken in Mar del Plata, a seaside resort, along with his team-mates Santiago Sánchez Viamonte and Pablo Balut.

In an Italian-Spanish documentary La Plata Rugby Club — No Bajen Los Brazos(Don’t Lower Your Arms), some club figures from that period reminisce about their friends — their qualities as athletes and activists — but also how they would be taken in the night, first to be interrogated and tortured. One asks if Pascua’s hands were tied when they found him. “He had no hands,” a former team-mate replies.

Of an estimated 220 athletes who disappeared under the regime, 152 were rugby players. It was La Plata who suffered the worst, a significant number from the first XV among the 20 murdered.

Younger reserves were drafted in to fill the gaps as players were killed for their involvement with the main leftist groups, the Montoneros and ERP (People’s Revolutionary Army) which were systematically wiped out.

“The team continued to play despite the absences,” Gómez says. “Among the other rugby teams they called them ‘the team of the Montoneros’ with contempt.”

Members of the La Plata rugby club team, several of whom were murdered in Argentina in the 1970s

Members of the La Plata rugby club team, several of whom were murdered in Argentina in the 1970s

Many had the chance to seek asylum and safe exile in France. These were families who could largely afford to send their offspring away to Europe. “But they all refused. They were convinced that their destiny was in the fight for the revolution,” Gómez says

His book, sadly, is not available in English — nor Silencios by Claudio Fava, which also documents this extraordinary story — but Gómez says that he was careful not to glamorise these players.

“I don’t like to consider them as heroes,” he says. “I prefer to take them as boys who gave their lives for an ideal, for a revolution that they believed possible. In that generation there was a lot of idealism and also a lot of mistakes.”

The March date of the military coup is marked in Argentina as a day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice with mass gatherings and ceremonies, yet Gómez thinks that rugby can do more.

“They are only honoured by their families, by human rights organisations and by a minimal sector of society,” he says. “In the club there is a plaque with their names. Only that. When I published the book five years ago many La Plata rugby players wrote to me to tell me that they did not know the history of these boys because no one had told them.”

It took another 20 years after the killings, he says, for La Plata to recover its status as a champion side in Argentina. The impact on the families, on widows, siblings and children of those who disappeared, is, of course, never ending.