So I know most of my posts end up being long enough to be considered a novel. Trust me, I don’t plan on them being so long, it just happens! So this is the first in a new series of ‘Rambles’. These will be entries with a few short posts all with some common thread, ususally about something that I’ve noticed in the news and want to write about but won’t be able to make into a long enough article to merit their own post.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to follow the Pro12 as much as I hoped to this past season, but there have been a few stories going round the last few days that I felt I had to talk about:
With Ulster unable to secure a top-4 spot this season, Ruan Pienaar’s time in Ireland has come to an emotional end. After 7 years at Ulster, the 32-year-old will be leaving the province after the IRFU blocked a move to offer him a new contract. At his age and with a young family, this next contract will almost surely been his last, and it has been very clear that the former Springbok wanted to stay at Ulster.
I understand that the IRFU want to encourage home-grown talent, but there are already a number of young Irish scrum halves coming through to back up current internationals Conor Murray and Kieran Marmion, surely they could have had a bit more sentimentality in this situation.
Though they have had a number of quality players over the years, Pienaar could arguably considered Ulster’s franchise player. His experience and leadership, not to mention his reliable kicking from the tee, has helped propel Ulster into a period where they have been able to stand alongside the more well-known provinces of Munster and Leinster.
It’s only fitting that as he joins the mass of quality players moving to France, he has been named in the Pro12 Dream Team as well as being awarded the Try of the Season for his effort against Glasgow. Ireland, and the Pro12 as a whole, is losing a fantastic player.
Best of luck in the future Ruan!
Axing the Italians
Another day, another story about throwing Italian rugby teams out of a top-level league!
This time, rather than throwing Italy out of the 6 Nations, the discussion revolves around axing the Italian teams, Zebre and Treviso, from the Pro12. Possible replacements that have been mentioned in recent weeks have been South Africa’s axed Super Rugby sides, or possibly franchises in the USA or Canada.
While I do appreciate that the Italian teams have not improved as everyone would have hoped, to give up on Italian rugby when there are clearly players of quality coming through does not seem right, especially if they were to be replaced with a long-distance team rather than other local teams! Much like SANZAAR’s protection of the Sunwolves, this sounds more like a matter of money than rugby.
While I don’t like the idea of axing the Italians, I can understand that change is probably needed. My suggestion would be to create an Italian version of the Jaguares: a single franchise that has most of the Italian national team on its books, so they are used to playing regular rugby together. The other place in the league could then be taken by a similar franchise from another emerging rugby nation, such as Georgia, Romania or Russia. This would allow for a number of lower-tier countries to get their players building good chemistry to take from the club competition into international matches, whilst also allowing the players to get regular experience against international calibre players at club level.
What are your thoughts on these stories? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge