That was the month that was: August 2018

Kicking competition in Paris for Finn; dodgy eligibility rules; Hardie headed for Clermont; Lancashire breakaway; player safety under the microscope again and Scottish pro teams flying high

Finn Russell Paris
Finn Russell is settling in well in Paris but may face competition for kicking duties from an unlikely source ***Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk***

by COLIN RENTON

Finn’s looking good at Racing

Finn Russell may have missed the summer tour with the Scotland squad, but he still faced some international competition. The former Glasgow Warriors stand-off joined up with his new colleagues at Racing 92 for a pre-season training camp in Georgia. And as part of the build up to the season, the club played friendlies against Brazil and Argentina, with Russell featuring in both matches, which were won by the Parisian outfit. Russell, who then starred in the club’s win at Toulon on the opening day of the Top 14, and kicked a penalty and a conversion in the team’s defeat to Greig Laidlaw’s Clermont Auvergne on Sunday, is expected to be the frontline kicker for Racing this season – but as the clip taken by colleague Simon Zebo shows, he could face a challenge from prop Ben Tameifuna.

World Rugby denies favouring Tier 1 nations

Confusion reigned in Australia after Toni Pulu signed for Brumbies and was cleared to represent the Wallabies on the international stage. Pulu was described as the fastest man in New Zealand rugby in 2016 by then Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, who subsequently moved to Glasgow Warriors. The flyer, who was born in America and educated in New Zealand, holds an Australian passport but has played sevens for Niue. The confusion arose because Pulu had played at the same tournament as Tonga’s Sione Faka’osilea who then breached the rules when he represented Romania in six World Cup qualifiers. That offence ultimately led to the Romanians being docked points and missing out on qualification for Japan 2019. There were claims on social media that this was another example of the Tier 1 countries being given favourable treatment by the governing body. Not so, said World Rugby. By way of explanation, it added that Pulu had been ineligible to play for Niue and was therefore not ‘captured’ by that country. The rule has now changed but is not applied retrospectively, so he can represent Australia. Good to have that cleared up!

Hardie set to link up with vice captain Laidlaw

International flanker John Hardie will have a familiar face to help him settle in if he reaches agreement to join Clermont Auvergne, where he is currently on an extended trial. Hardie has been given an opportunity by the 2017 French champions to prove his fitness. Should the signing be confirmed, Greig Laidlaw, who is in his second season at the club, will be on hand to offer guidance. Clermont will be captained this season by Morgan Parra, who is a rival for the scrum-half berth with Laidlaw, one of five players nominated as vice-captains as the club bids to bounce back from a disappointing ninth-place finish last season.

Lancashire clubs going it alone

There was an interesting development in North West England where clubs, frustrated by the attitude of the RFU, struck out independently. The result is two leagues of 10 teams competing in the ADM Lancashire Leagues. The main concern among those involved was the distance they were having to travel to fulfil fixtures. With the RFU failing to take action, the clubs launched an independent competition. Sponsorship by ADM Leisurewear means that a prize of around £2,000 will be paid to the premier league champions at the end of the season.

French tragedy prompts review calls

The tragic deaths of two young French players have prompted a respected neurosurgeon to call for a review of the rules. Aurillac centre Louis Fajfrowski, who was 21, died in the changing rooms after a heavy tackle during a pre-season friendly. That tragedy came just a few months after teenager Adrien Descrulhes died of brain trauma following a match. Professor Jean Chazal, who was dropped from a rugby advisory group in France because of his strong views, voiced his concerns that there would be a fatality on the pitch. He recently claimed that rugby has ceased to be about strategy and avoidance and has become a combat sport. He is urging rule makers in all parts of the world to work together to make the game safer.

Glasgow and Edinburgh in world’s top 15

With the Super Rugby season now completed and Crusaders bagging a ninth title, the US-based company Rugby Vison has produced its World Club Rankings list for 20017-18.

Note the following comment from the table compilers: (Rankings include all games in the 2017-18 European season and 2017 & 2018 Super Rugby competitions. Rankings are not form weighted, so a win at the start of 2017 is worth the same as a win at the end of 2018.)


Hamilton aims to hit the heights with Edinburgh after peaking in August

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Colin Renton
About Colin Renton 78 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on a range of subjects including sport, food & drink, travel and finance for more than 20 years. During that time, he has contributed to over 75 publications and websites. He is also an experienced proof reader and editor. Colin covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel to ply their trade. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his own work fits that bill!

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