Loose Pass: Cursing the caterpillar, praise for the referees and awful kits

Planet Rugby loose pass talks Six Nations, Toulouse, kits and officiating Credit: Alamy
Planet Rugby loose pass talks Six Nations, Toulouse, kits and officiating Credit: Alamy

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a tweak to the ‘use it’ rule, the officiating, a word in the ear of the kit designers and an embarrassment of riches in Toulouse…

‘Use it’ could also mean ‘stop it’

Loose Pass has talked before about the ongoing irritation at the caterpillar ruck and the long periods of nothing that happens before the modern-day box-kick is launched. You may as well allow broadcasters to schedule TV time-outs or allow physios to dish out a couple of massages.

It is clearly not going to change any time soon. However, in one last, flailing attempt to rid the game of this tiresome practice, we have one more suggestion: namely that no more players are allowed to join (or unbind and re-join) a ruck (from either team) once the referee has called ‘use it’.

At least twice on Saturday, the countdown from the ‘use it’ call was befuddled, but almost certainly delayed/extended, by a couple of extra caterpillar links joining onto the back of the rucks while the scrum-half toe-flicked the ball backwards in the manner of a late-night pub-leaver trying to rescue his gloves from a wet gutter. We’d wager it was more times than that, actually, but life’s too short to count caterpillars.

Stopping more players joining after the ‘use it’ call (the suggested sanction would be a scrum to the defending team) would allow us a clean count and would absolutely speed the game up. At the very least, it would put pressure on teams to organise themselves faster and/or maybe lead to some more jeopardising mistakes around fringes. Anything, absolutely anything, to get rid of caterpillar rucks…

It’s different at speed

It should be noted explicitly, considering how often they are in the firing line, that Loose Pass could find few faults with any of the referees in the Six Nations this weekend past.

In Rome, Matthew Carley’s handling of as tense and emotional a game as you could hope for was exemplary in particular, but there was little fault to find with either of Karl Dickson’s or Paul Williams’ performances.

Particularly noticeable too, and pointed out on at least two of the television commentaries, was the streamlined processes of TMO review and communication, which, combined with the high level of officiating on offer, made for an excellent weekend of rugby and a welcome post-weekend examination of matters mostly connected with playing.

Naturally, there’s a long-overdue ‘but’ in this section, which occurred during the Ireland v Wales clash, where Liam Williams was terribly unlucky to be yellow-carded.

There’s sympathy for the officials who correctly toed the line on the head-contact protocols, but not only could Williams have done nothing, had he stooped into contact, he would have been risking a far worse contact head-to-head, threatening the safety of both players.

There were two key aspects to the moment which the TMO and Mr. Dickson failed to consider: firstly, that the incident not only happened at high speed but also in an unstructured fashion. It was a loose ball, scooped up by Johnny Sexton, whose reflex was simply to charge forward; Williams just stood there.

Secondly, Sexton did not stoop into contact; he claimed the ball as he was rising from the floor. His only movement was upwards into the contact area from below waist level. Williams had no time to bend forward, but had he done so he would have been putting his head squarely in the firing line.

Not that it made a difference to the result, but this was an incomplete assessment of an exceptional situation by the officials, which would have benefited from a couple of watches of the replay at real-time speed for an improved contextual review of the contact.

Schoolboy error

A long and heartfelt column appeared in one of England’s broadsheet newspapers on Friday lamenting the departure from traditions of England’s current kit. The phrase ‘red-splattered horror’ will be long at the back of your correspondent’s mind every time England take the field now.

Yet, even that was outdone by the bizarre new Scotland kit, which, although it retains the good old navy-blue-nearly-black colour as its centrepiece, somehow thought it might add to the thistle-eating, caber-tossing, nothing-under-the-kilt Scottishness of the ensemble by giving them a pale blue trim?

To the ageing eyes of Loose Pass, the kit most closely resembled the kit sported by the well-beaten St. Patrick’s U13C side of c. 198-, irrespective of the ripples of Duhan van der Merwe’s muscles underneath it. Scotland pipped England in a tight game on Saturday; they may also have just pipped the Auld Enemy to the ‘worst kit of the tournament’ award as well.

Fun times in Toulouse

There’s probably not much Loose Pass can write about the hot-stepping, highlight-reel entry into the Test arena of Italy full-back Ange Capuozzo that has not been written already. Nor of Italy’s resurgence for that matter.

But it has not escaped Loose Pass’ attention that with Capuozzo continuing a meteoric rise, Toulouse has a remarkable embarrassment of riches in its back three.

France’s number one full-back, France’s number two full-back, and European rugby’s hottest new talent are all jostling for space at the sharp end of the team in France’s rugby capital city; lest we forget, in lean times such as these when all three are on international duty, the cover is provided by one Juan Cruz Mallia of Argentina fame.

Please let us have Ireland v France, sorry, Toulouse v Leinster, sometime this year. Please?

READ MORE: Six Nations Team of the Week: Scotland and Ireland lead the way after impressive victories

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