Bigger worries than boozing players

Congrats to Steve Hansen for handling the Aaron Cruden incident in the mature fashion he has says Tank Lanning, who deems rugby to have much bigger fish to fry than the odd boozing player.

Tank Lanning in is weekly Ultimate Rugby App column

“We love our children, but we don’t always love their behaviour” is how All Black coach Steve Hansen described flyhalf Aaron Cruden’s costly Saturday night on the sauce. What a wonderful approach from Hansen. Sure Cruden needs to serve out his punishment, but once served, he will be welcomed back to the family.

Let’s not forget that this is a 25 year old young man who still has to pack Clearasil in his toiletry bag. Given a night off in an airport hotel because their plane had broken down, instead of taking in the Saturday night movie in his hotel room, he chose to go for a few beers instead. He could, after all, sleep it off in the plane the next day.

A few bad decisions, the severity of which no doubt in direct proportion to the amount of beers being consumed, and next he is missing his flight to Argentina with his All Black team mates. Can you imagine the demons that must have caused? Punishment enough in itself perhaps?

No I am not condoning Cruden’s actions, especially in a team environment where you let not only yourself down, but your team mates too, but I am suggesting a little perspective. These guys train incredibly hard, and in the process give up on a lot of what their “Normal” mates get up to on weekends, so when given the opportunity to let off a little steam, one can understand a heavier foot than normal on the accelerator every now and then.

And in a sport becoming more sterile than an ER as players and management are coached what to say to the media (hence the cliché.com press releases), and players adhere to the incredibly strict protocols a professional sport demands, it is quite nice to see a little colour every now and then. A hint of the “Good old amateur days” so to speak, where stories from off the field gave the sport as much colour as stories from on it.

And as former Bok flanker Rob Louw Tweeted: “Looks like there is a fair drinking culture amongst the AB’s! We should try it .. Might help with our skill levels!” which was obviously said tongue in cheek, but it is an apt reminder of the entertainment that guys like Cruden provide.

No the scourge in modern day rugby is not the players going on the odd bender, so congrats to Steve Hansen and the All Black management for handling it in the mature fashion they have.

Three things I do consider to be the scourge of modern day rugby, and in need of some urgent TLC from the IRB, are the driving maul, the scrum, and the cleaning out at the breakdown.

The driving maul I see as legalised obstruction which is basically undefendable if performed correctly. Two solutions would be to ban the attacking team from being able to have their ball carrier “Swim” to the back, thus making teams have to pass it to the back. Or say that in order to get a driving maul going, your front man has to carry the ball, thus making him a fair target for defenders to tackle.

The scrum is just far too complex to allow full arm penalties. Referees are guessing and players milking penalties. A solution is to make the biggest sanction a short arm penalty, and allow props to bind where they want and put their hands on the ground to stabilise it.

I realise it’s not ballet, but the game is a few seconds away from a player being paralysed, or worse, dying, by having his neck broken by a players cleaning him out via the legalised shoulder charge that is the modern day clean out at the breakdown. Yes referees are being more vigilant, but two solutions would be to bring back rucking and thus speed up the breakdown, or only allow cleanouts if you’re a bound to a fellow team mate.