by COLIN RENTON
Seattle make it a double
Seattle Seawolves retained the US Major League Rugby title with a 26-23 win in a tense final away to San Diego Legion in front of 5,000 spectators. Seawolves, with former Glasgow Warriors prop Djustice Sears-Duru in impressive form, trailed with two minutes to play but snatched the victory when lock Brad Tucker dotted down. The nine team competition will expand next season with the addition of three more sides, among them Scottish Rugby’s partner club Old Glory DC.
Tempers flare between Basque bosses
It’s tough to bear when a fierce rival enjoys greater success than you. And that tension was evident when Philippe Tayeb, the president of Bayonne, and his Biarritz counterpart, Jean-Baptiste Aldige, met in the stands during the Top 14 semi-final between Toulouse and La Rochelle. Tayeb, whose Bayonne club has earned promotion to the top flight for next season, wanted to have a word with his counterpart. The two clubs have history including accusations against Bayonne supporters of homophobic chanting towards Aldige earlier in the season, and derby matches between are notoriously fiery. The ill feeling has been fuelled by talk of a possible merger that surfaced in recent years. Words were exchanged and the encounter became physical. Tayeb and Aldige have been summoned by the league to explain their behaviour in a pubic setting.
Steaks are off the menu for Finn & Co
Bosses at Racing 92 left Finn Russell and his team-mates in no doubt about their feelings after the club’s season ended with an ignominious exit at home to La Rochelle in the Top 14 play-offs. Their anger was eloquently expressed by actions rather than words when the end of season barbecue for players, staff and their families was cancelled.
Joe wants to be turbo charged
Joe Naufahu, who played for Glasgow Warriors in 2002-03 as well as turning out for Stirling County and GHA, has revealed an ambition to return to the city. Naufahu, whose career was cut short by injury, turned to acting and featured in the TV series Game of Thrones. He has also featured in several films. At the age of 41 his rugby days are firmly in the past, but he has disclosed a desire to revisit Ashton Lane in Glasgow and drink a ‘turbo shandy’ – lager and vodka.
Women’s game on the rise
World Rugby has launched a campaign to improve investment and player numbers in the women’s game. Called ‘Try and Stop Us’, it has the support of federations around the world. There has been a substantial increase over the past few years, with the most recent number being 2.7 million players, up 28% since 2017. For the second year in succession, more young girls have taken up the game than boys.
Rebranding or a grab for cash?
If the Glasgow Warriors logo change provoked a mixed reaction from supporters amid allegations of money-making by the club, it is nothing compared to the response in New Zealand after Canterbury Crusaders announced amendments to their brand. The club launched a review in the wake of the horrific Christchurch shootings in March. A far-right expert suggested that the Crusaders imagery might be fuelling white supremacy and anti-Muslim ideology. Crusaders said the name would remain unchanged until the end of next season. However, the knight and sword were subsequently removed from the logo and the website text was amended to remove reference to the British heritage of Christchurch. The franchise’s chief executive Colin Mansbridge defended the move, stating that the city’s British past contribution is now less relevant. Fans’ reaction was mixed, with some threatening to stop attending matches. Another rebranding for 2021 could result in yet another logo – more dipping into the pockets of supporters who want to buy merchandise – perhaps Warriors supporters got off lightly.
Folau saga shows no sign of ending
The Israel Folau saga took another twist when the sacked Wallabies back three player launched an online funding campaign to help him sue former employer Rugby Australia. Folau was dismissed for homophobic comments on social media. Contributions reached $500 million within days, but his campaign – like most of his actions that caused the issue in the first place – divided opinion. While thousands of people donated, others accused him of greed, pointing to his Lamborghini and multi-million dollar property portfolio as evidence of his wealth. And a UK-based critic launched his own fundraising effort with the aim of collecting more money than Folau manages to raise. Meanwhile, Rugby Australia have made it clear that they will spend a significant sum to defend the case. Somewhere, hidden in the mess is the battered reputation of a sport that doesn’t need this negativity. Folau’s funding bid was subsequently closed down for being against the fundraising rules but a supporter set up a replacement page which continued to attract money.
More woes for Waratahs
Tolu Latu became the latest Waratahs and Wallabies player to fall foul of the authorities. He was handed a four match ban and fined $5,000 by Rugby Australia after pleading guilty to drink driving. He was also fined and banned by the court. It was a bad month for Waratahs, with John Folau, brother of Israel, leaving Waratahs after taking time out to consider his future following the furore surrounding his sibling.
Fijians wind down with a song in the bath
On a more positive note, it’s great to see Fiji’s squad celebrate their success in the World Sevens Series with respect and joy:
'Recovery Fiji style' – . Vinaka Viti. pic.twitter.com/o51jXuFeSV
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) June 3, 2019
A new ball game for college boys
Giving a whole new meaning to the expression ‘up your jumper rugby’ was this piece of action by the Naval Academy on the way to a 19-5 defeat against Life University in the semi-final of the Collegiate Rugby Championship sevens tournament in Philadelphia.
Ahh yes, the ol’ hidden ball in the jersey trick 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/VEZuKdJOtT
— Collegiate Rugby Championship (@USASevensRugby) June 4, 2019