The IRB does care about the rules. But which rules exactly?

I read Wynne Gray’s column in the Herald yesterday and agreed with most of what he said.  His column supported a lot of coverage over the last week suggesting that in this Rugby World Cup the IRB has demonstrated a clear bias against the smaller unions, most obviously via the scheduling arrangements and the $10,000 fine handed down to Samoan wing Alesana Tuilagi for wearing a non-approved mouthguard.

The prevailing view is that the IRB favours the larger unions that deliver the revenue, while undermining the smaller unions that require the investment.

I’m not sure I agree that this is true, and I also think there’s a more alarming conclusion that can be drawn. Perhaps the real issue is that the IRB has more concern for the rules of the event than it does for the rules of the game.

Think about it.  Two of the IRB’s biggest calls in relation to this event have been to fine a player for wearing an incorrect mouthguard and to insist that a group of commentators be referred to by their first names, not by their nicknames. Remember that?  That was when the IRB insisted that TJ, Nisbo, Kamo and Coops must only be referred to as Tony, Grant, Ian and Matthew while commentating during the Rugby World Cup.

This is simply the IRB playing to its strengths.  Because it certainly appears from the outside that the key strength of the IRB is officious administration.

I imagine the IRB has a very large (and very happy) team of people responsible for developing and communicating guidelines to which all participating RWC teams must adhere.  (For the 2003 event this document ran to 199 pages, and it’s difficult to imagine it’s had much of an edit.)

You can bet that the detailed rules governing approved mouthguards were covered in these guidelines and that Samoa received them.  So from the IRB’s perspective the rules of the event were communicated and it’s clear a player broke them. So that’ll be $10,000.

But contrast that with the two England coaching staff who were caught illegally changing the ball prior to conversion attempts in the game against Romania.  There’s equally no question that rules were broken.  The RFU admitted this as part of their investigation of the incident that it shared with the IRB.  But England’s punishment for breaking the rules?  The two coaches were banned from the touchline for their pool match against Scotland. No fine. No points docked. No meaningful censure at all.

So the simple conclusion is that the IRB has one rule for rich, potential tournament winner England and another for struggling, probable early loser Samoa.

But I think that’s the wrong comparison. This isn’t about rich vs poor, Six Nations vs Pacific Nations, potential winner vs honest trier. All it shows is that the IRB is more concerned with the rules of its event than it is with the rules of the game.

England wasn’t fined because it didn’t break the IRB’s rules. Samoa was fined because it did. And unfortunately in the eyes of the IRB, that’s a far greater infraction.

The IRB does care about the rules. But which rules exactly?

The pin-striped screen of death

My computer has died. But not in any conventional way.

The blue-screen of death is perhaps the most popular form of computer death. The red screen of death will be familiar to those with gaming devices. The black screen of death never goes out of fashion. And the purple screen of death sounds like more fun than I imagine it actually is.

But my MacBook Pro has died and presented me with this – the pin-striped screen of death.



My theory is that this is simply Apple’s famed ‘intuitive design’ taken to its natural conclusion. I want to believe that while you traverse the web, your MacBook is taking note, quietly building a visual abstract of your online life. And that when the time comes for it to log off for the last time, you will be presented with an entirely non-judgemental summation of your browsing life.

Hence, having spent far too much time in the company of Most ExerentCrane Brothers and Patrick Johnson, I’m captured in the image of a 12 oz, pearl pin-striped flannel. How do you think you might be remembered?

The pin-striped screen of death

Yet another thing I want quite badly.

I love Monocle. I don’t read it, but I love it. I buy it semi-regularly, each time full of ambition. It just screams intellectual betterment. I really do want to understand more about the heated debate generated by Poland’s recently launched census. And I really am interested in why the Swiss franc remains one of the world’s most popular investor currencies. But then I settle down with the magazine and find myself wishing that there were more Canali ads or stories about Patrick Grant.

I also love stationery. I’m particularly partial to a notebook. It’s where I imagine writing all the piercingly insightful observations I would make were I the type of person who actually read Monocle.

So this, a stationery range from Monocle, is pretty exciting. It’s the kind of notebook in which Jessica Hische would doodle, or in which Marisha Pessl would record her idle thoughts.

Yet another thing I want quite badly.

A couple of minutes, two dozen moleskine and twenty year’s experience.

A few weeks back a friend was describing a visit to a repairer.  He’d been despatched by his wife to have the zip on one of her (implausible number of) handbags repaired.  The zip kept jamming at the same point, adjacent to where the two sides of the zip couple.  He was hoping the zip could be replaced. (She was quietly hoping that it couldn’t.)

He handed the bag to a man in a leather apron who inspected it closely, surveyed it from a few angles, peered closely at the recalcitrant zip, examined the underside of the strap then stated, without any fear of contradiction, “she usually carries it on her right shoulder”.

He wandered away, returning with a peanut slab-sized block of metal and a small hammer. He tapped the zip half a dozen times, gently, like a woman on a first-date hatching a crème brulee. Then he ran the now free-flowing zip up and down a few times, smiled with a warranted sense of professional pride, and said “I’ve seen this a few times. Women carry their bag on the same shoulder, all the heavy stuff slides to one end, the whole bag stretches and the teeth of the zip get out of alignment”.

“That’s brilliant”, said my friend, “how much do I owe you?”

“Don’t worry about it” replied the craftsman, “it only took a couple of minutes”.

But it didn’t. It took about twenty years.  Experience, practice, a trained eye and a skilled hand, all built up over twenty years.  Which is what he should have charged for.

This was nicely paralleled in a meeting I was in a couple of years ago.  A client was presenting a brief to an agency. He asked if there were any questions. A copywriter, who had spent the majority of the meeting doodling in his moleskine, said “wouldn’t it make sense just to …. [do something very simple that I can’t really explain here]“. Everyone in the room agreed that it would indeed make sense just to …. [do something very simple that I can’t really explain here], and that, not only did it make sense, it was a fantastically good idea.  The client was most delighted of all, particularly with himself, when he announced “that’s a great idea, and what’s even better is I won’t have to pay for it because it only took a couple of minutes to come up with”.

Absolutely. A couple of minutes, two dozen moleskine and twenty year’s experience.

A couple of minutes, two dozen moleskine and twenty year’s experience.