If It Ain’t Broke

Acting In their best interest?

The Mole expected to see the ill wind of protectionism blow in 2011 but didn’t think that it would happen in the market for tighthead props.

Ireland’s move to professionalism has been documented by Fangio in the book From There to Here and when all is said and done, it’s been a successful transition. The Mole grew up in an era where England would turn up, plamas Ireland about “the passion” then annihilate us. Since their World Cup victory it’s been seven wins out of eight during the Six Nations and the country gets disappointed when we “only” win a Triple Crown. Where’s your effing pride, indeed?

However, the real winners have been the provinces. The Mole’s commented before on how international tickets seem to be held in trust through the generations for a particular set of Irish supporters. The Heineken Cup has made big match rugby accessible to a new audience, both at grounds and on the TV. The tournament has not suffered by being broadcast on Sky. In fact, as with most sports coverage, Sky’s professionalism and attention to detail has made other broadcasters raise their game. The popularity of the Heineken Cup in Ireland owes something to the fact that the fact that the games act as great social occasions and provide an opportunity to travel to interesting destinations. The main feel good factor has been provided by the provinces’ success. Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell are household names and rugby’s profile has risen hugely. That higher profile has allowed the IRFU to countenance and accomplish the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, Thomond Park and the RDS. Rugby was played in Croke Park and the GAA would have them back. All is changed, and most of it positive.

The success of the Irish provinces has been bulwarked by some shrewd overseas signings. True, there have been some turkeys – Tony Goldfinch anyone? – but there’s been more positives than negatives. The Mole has selected his best import XV of the professional and amateur eras here.

The IRFU’s move limits the number of Non Irish Eligible (NIE) players to one per position, spread across the three provinces. This is an Irish solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The provinces compete against each other and against clubs that are capable of signing whomever they want, particularly the big French clubs. Restricting the provinces ability to compete does not seem in the best interests of Irish rugby. This decision raises a number of questions about the IRFU’s role in relation to the provinces, the national team, revenues raised and expenditures paid out.

How this plan is administered has yet to be finessed but it brings rugby politics and the back office too close to the pitch for the Mole to be comfortable. The IRFU seem only to be viewing one scenario in the future: that increased game time at provincial level will produce more players capable of playing successful international rugby for Ireland. While that’s commendable, it’s not inevitable, and this is a risky move that may have unintended consequences.

7 thoughts on “If It Ain’t Broke

  1. The time for revolution is at hand! Cast off your shackles, Leinster, you have nothing to lose but the ignorant blazers of 10/12 Landsdowne Road!! The cause of Irish Rugby’s is Leinster’s, and the cause of Leinster Rugby’s Ireland’s!


    Ok, I may be over egging the pudding but I really fail to see how this latest initiative is going to help us. Reduce the number of NIE’s (interesting change of phrase from NIQ) if you feel it’s going to help (though 6 is hardly an extravagance). Insist on a limit on the number involved in the match day 22 (or 23) but the new inititiave seems nonsensical to me. I’m saying we can’t cope or won’t be able to compete, but you don’t see Usain Bolt carrying a bag of bricks with him because he is so much faster than everyone else.

  2. Don’t like the ruling about provinces having to request permission to play a nie player in a non nominated position and this is to be only in “exceptional circumstances.” That is too far for a start and good coaches don’t like being told what to do like that. I wonder will these changes be watered down come the time….it feels like a starting negotiating position from the irfu. I’d also question the legality in terms of freedom of labour if the player was european and nie.

    Having said that, you can see the intention is to not allow a situation such as in England where there are so few English fly halves. Certainly an under 12 player in Dublin has a much better chance of being a top rugby player as a result of these changes than he does if he lived in London, but then that was probably already the case! It would be much better if there were unwritten rules between the provinces and common sense applied, but perhaps the irfu don’t trust them, or have been burned a bit by provinces looking for loopholes (he of the 4 tries on Dennis? That’s pure speculation I must admit).

    I don’t think it will be very harmful to the provinces as they are currently as good a rugby nursery as there is anywhere in the world, though there would be quite a dog fight over who needs afoa/botha more…..No Brian, your team is much stronger….ah no tony we are terrible. It remains a fairly heavy-handed means of producing more tight heads though! ?Cead mile failte anyone?….apparently not.

    Biggest argument against the one contract thing is 3 letters….Isa. I agree with the sentiment of trying to ensure healthy, sustainable structures, but the means……too heavy.

  3. One other thing….to say the national team generate the most money and so must take priority in decisions…..Whether these changes are right or wrong is one thing, but I definitely don’t agree with that rationale. Decisions should be made in the best interests of sport, not based on money (as has been suggested in despatches from the irfu), although neither should decisions be made by self interested provinces….turkeys voting for no Christmas. It would be nice if common sense prevailed about developing young Irish talent in all positions, without (arguably) allowing xenophobia to emerge.

  4. There are no English outhalves… apart from Toby Flood, Charlie Hodgson, Olly Barkley, Stephen Myler, Shane Geraghty, Ryan Lamb, Owen Farrell, Freddie Burns. And George Ford and Le Jonny.

    They’re variously too young, too old, or too crap, but this idea that has sprung up that there are none, or that none of them are getting a chance because of “all” the New Zealanders is a bit weird…

    • Take your point toro toro, that was a bit of a throw away remark perhaps and would in fact add in clegg of quins as a good prospect (and oooooh Danny cypriani), but the fact that so few of them are either: at this point realistic international out halves, first choice with club, playing that position regularly, proven at heino cup level…I can understand the thinking in trying to give madigan, mckinney, Jackson et al an advantage over these guys (and apply that logic to all positions). They are trying to support the work of the academies too, which is very understandable. I am of the opinion that there are more Daniel carters out there, but they need investment (time and knoeledge being more important than money), opportunity as well as their own abilities. The cream does not always just rise to the top. I still ain’t comfortable with these particular changes though.

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