Wasps director and former captain Lawrence Dallaglio eased himself into the Arabian Gulf on Friday with a spot of drag racing, and a round of golf to follow yesterday, ahead of the innovative LV Cup match with Harlequins in Abu Dhabi this afternoon.
The Wasps players were not complaining about this mid-season alternative to a trip to Poland, and Gulf investment in Wasps is one possibility, though Dallaglio told Ruck and Maul: "It is about establishing relationships and not getting too carried away. The idea is to start with a match and see where we go."
Steve Hayes, the Wasps and Wycombe Wanderers owner, has visited the multi-billion-pound "Green City" a few miles from downtown Abu Dhabi for ideas for his stadium venture in leafy Buckinghamshire. "Eventually it will be a carbon-neutral town of 40,000 people, with solar power and no cars," said Hayes, referring to Masdar City not High Wycombe.
"The great thing about sport is the way it can educate in other areas such as the environment. We've looked at American stadiums and I plan to go to grounds in Holland and Germany."
Keeping an eye on gouging
Citing commissioners and judicial officers from around Europe – including 14 from France and seven from Italy – are gathered in London for the annual Six Nations Disciplinary Panel conference. It is aimed at achieving consistent decision-making across the next few weeks' 30-odd Six Nations, A-team and Under-20 matches. Two half-hour presentations on "contact with the eyes" at the conference demonstrate a concern that the contemptible offence of gouging has not been eradicated, but also the length of bans must fairly distinguish between deliberate finger-poking into the eye and an accidental hand around the face.
IRB must tackle anomaly
Players will not be forgiven their sins but they could be forgiven confusion when faced with the judicial process. The International Rugby Board and European Rugby Cup have single judicial officers for disciplinary cases in the World Cup, autumn internationals and Heineken Cup whereas the Six Nations, Magners League and RFU have three-man panels. ERC favour an adversarial system whereas the IRB and Six Nations prefer the inquisitorial approach.
Then there is French law. If, say, a Frenchman is banned for 26 weeks for gouging against Scotland next week, an appeal under the law of his land would require a full re-hearing from scratch, and the banning party to prove its case, which rugby's governing bodies are loath to agree to. In the absence of a re-hearing, the French National Olympic and Sporting Committee could decide the player is banned only from the Six Nations and he could play on for his club. Mind you, he'd be out of the Six Nations for years to fulfil his 26-week ban. It is an anomaly the IRB have yet to tackle head on.
Women also hit them for Six
A mention of two more "Six Nations" competitions which will not occupy quite the same column inches as the big boys. The women's version visits club grounds including Bridgend, Esher and Meggetland but the highlight should be England v Scotland at Twickenham, straight after the men play on 13 March. The Six Nations B comprises Georgia, Russia, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. There is no promotion, though, so Italy, or whoever else finishes bottom of the main event can rest easy.