What a very odd week it has been. It is as if the rugby world pulled back the curtains and looked out of its window to see Marc Lievremont and Peter de Villiers dancing like a pair of Rumpelstiltskins as they deludedly plotted world domination.
Perhaps the oddest thing in a very odd week is that de Villiers sounded almost sane. “There are no bonus points at the World Cup,” he remarked, after his tryless Springboks had beaten New Zealand. At this rate de Villiers might even play Bismarck du Plessis as his first choice hooker at the World Cup.
Odd. What is taking place on planet Wallaby? First Robbie Deans sacks his captain Rocky Elsom and replaces him with James Horwill. Then James O’Connor – who is a bit of a one man brand – doesn’t bother to turn up for the World Cup announcement.
O’Connor then says: “I let myself down, I let the fans down and I guess all the Wallabies down and the ARU as well.” It’s as if O’Connor has been running amok in Sydney with a giant hatpin letting down all those inflatable kangaroos and anybody else who might have a bit of air inside.
Matt Giteau certainly sounded deflated after being left out of the squad. What was that all about? Is Deans a New Zealand double agent? Will third choice scrum-half Nick Phipps really offer more than Giteau? We think that Deans may not like Giteau’s extravagant vocabulary.
Odd. Lievremont has picked half of the population of France during his short tenure as coach and you wouldn’t put it past him to start experimenting with using women as decoys in midfield. But he has not picked Thomas Domingo, one of the best looseheads in the world, for the World Cup.
It may well be that Lievremont is not convinced that Domingo has fully recovered from his knee injury. So his solution is to pick Fabien Barcella who has hardly played a game since rupturing his Achilles 12 months ago. Mad as a box of frogs.
Odd. The match officials decided to make up a new set of laws for the game between South Africa and New Zealand. Despite the fact that IRB laws only allow the TMO to rule on the in-goal area, whether a player is touch during the act of scoring or on a kick going through the posts, the South African Johan Meuswesen decided to tell ref George Clancy about a forward pass.
More astonishingly Clancy, who will referee the opening game of the World Cup, acted on the inadmissible information. The IRB referees boss Paddy O’Brien said: “They were wrong. I’ve asked for a reply from both of them and I haven’t received one yet. They are expected to stick to our protocols and the message will be loud and clear come the World Cup that there will be consequences for officials that go outside the protocols.”
Odd. Reports from England suggest that Martin Johnson has left Riki Flutey out of his World Cup squad. One can only suppose that this is because Flutey has shown some elusive footwork over the previous four years and thrown the occasionally accurate pass. What frippery. Johnson wants straight runners in his midfield, preferably over 6ft 3ins tall and made of concrete. Ah, the beautiful game. You wonder what might have become of Conrad Smith under the current England regime.