Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Harpin Points 21 : #Flaggate, Sponsorship & Inside centres

Every Wednesday we widen our focus beyond Leinster & Ireland rugby matches, offering views on broader rugby topics and themes


Right, I left this out of my match writeup because it's more suited as a Harpin Point so here goes…

First, here's what Bath had to say about the incident…

…now to what Leinster Rugby said

While Leinster Rugby respect the decision made by Bath Rugby and their officials, we are keen to avoid a repeat ever happening again and in this regard we are happy to confirm that the flags distributed centrally by Leinster Rugby are covered by a Safety Certificate and that the same batch of flags are still in use.

… now, a little bit of gossip from the Interweb, ironic as anything if true…

(hat-tip Conor Cronin)

… And finally, what I said…

What a totally unnecessary mess.

Leinster have been doing the flag thing for ever. Bath have been to both RDS and Aviva in recent seasons and know this full well. If they were that concerned with safety, this could have been (sorry but this blatant pun can't be helped) flagged long before any of our fans headed towards the Rec.

When Saracens appeared to use their PA system to drown out Munster fans a few seasons ago, I didn't want to believe it was an act of cynicism, but now that we've had this carry on you can't help but wonder if that's precisely what it was.

Not that I think the entire club is involved, mind you…it sounds like a couple of rogue morons were put in a position to make a decision and clearly went for the wrong one, after which the club felt that had no choice but to back them up.

Should there be repercussions? Of course not. You'd hope the shame alone would prevent it from happening again but then again if it was a PA system one time and flags another, who knows what else they can dream up in the future.

It's the kind of thing you never thought you'd need regulations…a bit like the way you'd be very unlikely to tell your three-year-old never to pour orange juice on your laptop until they actually do it. My example may or may not be based on a true story 😝

One positive does come out of it…plenty of opportunity for puns, memes and general online banter, and with Bath heading for the Aviva seven short days after the Rec, the craic is bound to continue through another weekend.


Episode 12 in my exploration of the 15 Irish positions brings us to the centre, and for Joe Schmidt in particular, those positions were always going to be the most critical to his tenure as Irish coach.

Anyone would love to inherit a team with a settled duo like Darce & Drico to build a team around, yet Joe always knew one of his primary jobs was to find players to replace them long term as both were close to retirement.

It was one of the most talked about topics in Irish rugby all the way up to his first selection after they were gone, but I can pretty much guarantee that nobody came close to suggesting Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne as his primary pairing preference.

For one thing, both seemed to be already vying for the 15 jumper, though with Rob K looking even back then that he was going to play forever, in many ways it was great innovation by Schmidt to put these two literally front and centre.

And to understand why he made this call, you have to first appreciate how he uses his centres. It seems to be a decision based primarily on defensive capability. Ireland through first Les Kiss and now Andy Farrell have employed a stringent cordon of tacklers across the line, though the role of the centres would seem to be key.

Darce & Drico became masters of sniffing out the opposition's point of attack and when both made it there quickly, it made it extremely difficult for their set plays to be executed. Joe found a way to take that ability and pass it on, and what I called the ‘Henshayne’ duo were getting every bit as good at it.

But for Henshaw in particular, there was another important role to play. Off set-pieces, lineouts in particular, Joe Schmidt wants, nay DEMANDS that his team finds themselves on the front foot as soon as possible (called a ‘power play’ apparently) and more often than not this is achieved by your 9 finding your 12, either directly or via 10, with a pass as he's running a line that barges through the defensive line enough to have them all moving backwards. Henshaw is perfectly suited to this role, and often his crashes get him all the way over the try line.

But sadly Robbie is unavailable right now, so who can replace him? Well unfortunately Payne was forced to retire, but we had a ready made replacement in Garry Ringrose who pretty much arrived at senior level ready to play quality test rugby. He could move over to 12 in a pinch if required.

But the more likely option right now would seem to be Bundee Aki, who impressed in multiple opportunities this November and does very well both on crash ball and patrolling his tackling channel.

Another strong candidate is Stuart McCloskey, though while he has always been able to bust many a gain line, he has had to work on other aspects of his game and thus has fallen down the pecking order.

For now, it definitely seems to be Henshaw as the clear front runner for the Jersey, with Aki as principal back up, though a lot can happen between now and RWC2019.


First it was the Guinness Series in November, then it was the Guinness Pro 12/14, now we have the Guinness Six Nations; they have also put their famous name to other competitions like the Premiership in the really looks like they're keen to back the ol’ egg-chasing!  Or does it?

Remember what happened when Rabo Direct finished with the Celtic League?  They simply announced that they were going to finish their investment in the multi-national competition, and it was months before Diageo stepped up to put forward the black stuff.

Now it seems something similar has happened.  The Six Nations was sponsored for many years by the Royal Bank of Scotland, although for whíle they switched the name to one of its subsidiaries Natwest. 

According to reports, when it came time to renew, they made an offer which the 6N blazers thought they could refuse, since they believed their product was worth more.  Well now, yet again just a matter of weeks before the next competition is to be launched, the aul J Arthur has had to come in and save the day, at a much lower price than had been hoped for.

When you add those boardroom botches to the absolute shambles of a transition from the Heineken Cup to a ‘Champions Cup’ which was meant to attract around four lead sponsors yet could only muster two before finally reverting to the ‘Heineken Champions Cup’ and we appear to have a very clear pattern.

My take is that the rugby boffins are greedily eyeing up the hefty corporate spoils enjoyed by the likes of UEFA and FIFA and presume they can leverage their renegotiations to get similar astronomical figures.

Well we all know what Einstein reportedly said was the definition of stupidity…these ‘alickadoos’ clearly need to appreciate the level of the corporate game at which they are playing and tailor their approaches accordingly, otherwise these embarrassing PR scenarios are going to keep on coming.

Thanks as always for staying with us down this far...apologies for the shortened post this week...things a bit mad here at Harpin Manor, hopefully things can return to normal output soon.  JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019