Dancing on rugby's grave
April 27, 2012
The Rebels' Danny Cipriani breaks out the 'Dougie' after scoring against Force in their recent Super Rugby encounter © Getty Images
The International Rugby Board has confirmed that as of September, 2012, rugby union will again revert to being an amateur game. From this date onwards no players can receive any financial rewards for taking part in the sport and if they do so they will be banned from the game for life.
The decision, which has rocked the rugby world, reverses the momentous decision in 1995 to go professional and to end the 'shamateurism' which blighted the sport for well over a century.
The IRB has chosen to end rugby's 'open' period after reviewing video evidence from the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition which has shown that it is now becoming not only commonplace for players to dance after scoring a try, but also that said dancing is not followed with the players involved being ostracised from the game.
The key incident which has prompted the dramatic volte-face was former England fly-half Danny Cipriani dancing during an appearance for the Melbourne Rebels. (The dance can be viewed here - viewer discretion advised).
The IRB also cited the wearing of a red sparkly hat by centre Jamie Robert's after Wales' recent Grand Slam win and claimed it was another nail in the coffin of rugby as a professional sport.
"We can no longer stand idly by whilst our once great game is besmirched in such a way," said IRB spokesperson Andrew Lyons at a Dublin press conference. "The actions of a worrying large number of modern professional players has stripped our game of its dignity and its status. We hereby confirm that from this coming September the game will revert to its amateur status. May God forgive us for our trespasses against His holy game. Not even in our worst nightmares back in 1995 did we see rugby coming to this."
The IRB came to its conclusion after holding a week-long brainstorming conference in Dublin attended by top rugby experts and high profile figures from the business and financial worlds. The conference ('Moving the Game Forward: How to solve the financial and external pressures on Rugby Union') initially had no intention to even contemplate ending rugby's professional status, but was rather looking at ways of solving various pressures affecting the game globally.
"We thought we could cope with the problems in the Pacific Islands regarding the player drain," said Lyons. "We thought we could rescue the domestic games in Wales and Scotland, which are currently at death's doors. We held talks looking at how we can lower the increasing risk of serious injury in modern rugby. We also had some new ideas to help bridge the gap between the major and minor playing nations, so that future World Cups would see at least a dozen teams with a chance of winning, rather than the current three or four we currently tend to have.
"We had our ideas on ending the scrum issues and the tip-tackle controversies. We were prepared to fight hard and do whatever it took to protect rugby union and move forward. However, at the end of our week long consultation we were shown a video of Danny Cipriani dancing after scoring a try and the colour drained from all of our faces. I actually threw up all over a delegate from the southern hemisphere. We immediately ripped up all the notes and documents and research we had made during the week and said that professional rugby was not worth fighting for."
It seems the IRB committee were ultimately swayed by the fact that Cipriani's decided to dance despite pulling a hamstring in the act of scoring. "His first thought was about his little ego show," said Lyons. "Not staying still and getting treatment. Is this where rugby has gone?"
Alongside the Cipriani smoking gun, the committee were shown further evidence of the game's decline with moving images of other other Super Rugby-based players dancing.
"We realised then it was too late to save professional rugby union," continued Lyons. "The acts of Cipriani and his colleagues are contrary to the true interest of the game and its spirit. It is damaged beyond repair. We've crossed our Rubicon, so to speak."
Lyons did admit, however, that two members of the committee were not fully convinced that the dancing in the Super Rugby was enough to kill off professionalism alone and initially thought that a harsh fine and a life ban for the players involved would be enough.
However, upon being shown images of Welsh rugby player Jamie Roberts wearing a shiny cowboy hat after Wales won the 2012 Grand Slam, they were utterly convinced that professional rugby had to die.
The IRB plan to hold a minute's silence before all major rugby games this coming weekend to mourn the tragedy of dancing rugby players and Jamie's hat. "We must never forget," added Lyons, weeping and gnashing his teeth.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the blink of an eye, a winger can go from a hero to villain. Hugh Godwin talks to Zac Guildford and David Strettle about life on the flank
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup