This legacy could make kids losers
22:35 GMT, 27 September 2012
Legacy. It's the sporting word of the
year. In the warm afterglow of the London Olympics, it has become a
cherished, six-letter symbol of British vision.
But in rugby, there are grave
concerns about legacy. Three years from a home World Cup which could
galvanise the sport as never before, there is unrest about the
management of future generations.
Word reaches this column of widespread discontent with the revamp of mini rugby up to Under 12 level. An RFU investigation into this formative stage resulted in a change of emphasis to smaller pitches and smaller teams, with the accent on core skills and decision-making. It's difficult to argue with the logic, which is in tune with the formula in other leading nations.
Following trials, the new model has been adopted around the counties. But there is a groundswell of alarm over what is seen as a move away from the principle of competition.
County officials have held meetings with club coaches to preach the new mantra but the message is being distorted. Many junior festivals are being arranged without finals or trophies, and in at least one case organisers have decreed that they won't even keep score during games.
Understandably, many parents are up in arms. Emails seen by Sportsmail lambast the system as 'absolute tosh', 'shocking' and 'disappointing', and 'another example of the namby-pamby society we live in'. There is a feeling that children must learn how to win and how to lose as preparation for adult life.
But the RFU insist this perception of the revamp is wrong, with rugby development director Steve Grainger saying: 'We'd like to reassure people that we're not “anti- competitive”. Tournaments, trophies and getting more children enjoying the game are at the heart of what we do.'
Somehow, the message is not filtering through. The confusion must be addressed, quickly. The commitment to develop skills in junior players is welcome but the context of competition cannot be removed. If it is – by accident or design – children and their parents will simply look elsewhere for that competitive 'fix'.
Ford stuck in neutral
Johan Goosen will start at No 10 for South Africa on Saturday, after graduating from the 2011 junior World Cup – where he scored the same number of penalties (10) as George Ford.
The English fly-half went on to win the IRB's World Young Player of the Year award but while Goosen serves as his country's playmaker, Ford will be on the bench for Leicester.
Again. He had a 15-minute cameo at London Welsh, seven minutes against Worcester and has been an unused replacement twice. Richard Cockerill can pick who he likes and he is backing Toby Flood, but a precocious talent is going to waste. Ford is in the Saxons squad but cannot put pressure on England's senior fly-halves if he can't get a game.
His Leicester contract expires at the end of the season and he is highly likely to move on.
It's all about the timing
There was something convenient about ERC's decision to confirm on Monday that the 2014 European finals would be held in France.
The announcement came a fortnight before the next talks aimed at resolving the TV rights row which is threatening the future of continental club competition – with French allegiance viewed as crucial.
The Heineken Cup final was last held in France in 2010, and in 2001 before that, with a block on the promotion of the title sponsor contributing to the scarcity of such showpieces there. Now it will return just four years later.
If there is a defined rota, why are these announcements trumpeted one by one And what about the talk of taking finals to Italy If the detail in the announcement is not cause for cynicism, the timing surely is.
Farrell shows his value
Anyone in doubt about the qualities Andy Farrell will offer England now he is back in the national coaching hierarchy should have heard him speak at the launch of a sponsorship agreement designed to enhance the development of young players. Normally, these occasions generate polite gratitude and corporate-speak but Farrell spoke with real passion in recalling his own formative years in rugby league. If that is how he can talk at a business-like function, his comments in the final minutes before a Test match must be truly inspirational.
The last word
Hardly a week goes by without a Welsh player being linked with a move to France and the latest to consider his options is Jamie Roberts. The Cardiff Blues centre is sure to ignite a transfer frenzy, given his status as a Grand Slam-winning Lion. Roberts, an outstanding player, is also a bright, articulate figure who will soon qualify as a doctor. If he departs, it will be emphatically the biggest loss yet to the game in Wales. Given his standing and qualities, the WRU should consider contributing to his salary in return for ambassadorial duties. Roberts would not be worse off – in any sense – for moving on, but Welsh rugby would be.