Union clutching at straws, again...

Union has once again borrowed League to get a backpage with reports they intend to have another lash at League?s best backline stars following the 2007 World Cup.

It just goes to show that if the Wallabies were half as good as their damage controllers in the press, they?d never lose an International again.

From where I?m sitting this morning Rugby League was the clear winner on the weekend and despite the headlines in today?s papers, a few issues need to be put into perspective.

The facts speak for themselves ? the Wallabies are having a disastrous European Tour, culminating in a humbling 21-6 loss to Ireland, a nation they have lost to once in the past 25 years.

From a purely Australian perspective, I would like to think that we should never lose to Ireland in anything, with the possible exception of a Guiness drinking competition.

Back to Union though, and at present their backline consists of names such as Giteau, Latham, Tuqiri, Mortlock and Larkham, and off the bench they have Rogers. I don?t profess to be an expert in the 15-a-side game, but to me and most of the rest of the world, the problem doesn?t seem to be there.

So it comes as no surprise that their forward pack had their head handed to them in a bucket against the Irish. This morning?s Daily Telegraph carries a piece by Peter Jenkins claiming the ARU is again ready to raid the NRL of it?s rising stars.

Given the timing of this ?story? there must have been a distinct lack of faith in the ability of the Wallabies to win in Dublin ? the game finished at 4.45am AEST this morning, well after the paper went to print.

So Mr Jenkins obviously had this one stored up to take the heat off Australia?s abysmal continuation of their northern hemisphere tour.

But the central theme of the story seems to be at odds with itself. It claims that Gregan, Larkham and Rogers will be heading away from the game post World Cup creating a gulf of talent. Correct me if I?m wrong, but last week the leather patch brigade were announcing Giteau as Gregan?s successor at halfback.

The article also spruiks up-and-coming wonder kids Beale and Cooper, who by the end of 2007 would presumably be ready to fill the void of Larkham and Rogers.

So where exactly do they need to recruit? Slater and Wing have been mentioned loosely in the follow-up column as possible signings ? which borders on insane ? but in fairness probably only because they are off-contract next year.

One of the few remaining similarities between the two codes is that victory on the field is built through the forwards. But given the differences in the forward tactics, it?s unlikely a prop or backrower in League would make the jump to Union.

Traditionally speaking, Union forwards have always made the transition to League successfully with the exception of Garrick Morgan, who struggled at the Crushers. I note that two players in the Wallabies forward pack (Palu and Elsom) both had stints in League and couldn?t crack first grade positions in the NRL.

Again, I reiterate my limited knowledge of Union, but surely that is not a good thing.

Could this morning?s fluff from Union be a smokescreen for a wider agenda, being that they are closer to losing Tuqiri than we think? He didn?t look a picture of happiness as he trudged from the muddy turf in Dublin after copping a bath from O?Driscoll, detracting from the argument that playing Union let?s you ?travel the world?.

And if the ARU was confident of retaining him, why would they send a message to the NRL that they are after outside backs? If Tuqiri was to turn his back on Union after 2007 and return to League it would be a massive slap in the face to the ARU, particularly when you consider his estimated $1 million price tag.

All this noise came on a weekend where a League International out-drew a Union International in crowd figures. On top of that the Kangaroos v Lions at Suncorp Stadium also beat the collective A-League crowd figures at the weekend.

Sure, the Barmy Army was in town for the cricket, but that?s good management not good luck. It is clear to all and sundry that League is enjoying a renaissance at the International level and Brisbane is showing a particular taste for the Green and Gold.

If I was David Gallop I?d have a wry smile on my face about now, but not for too long. Supposing Union is serious about their threat, there will be no shortage of player manager?s revealing their various clients? interest in switching codes, pushing player values higher.

A long-term solution needs to be found to counter this incessant behaviour from the ARU who have clearly lost any traction from the 2003 tournament that was staged in Australia.

Raise the salary cap Mr Gallop, and you?ll kill two birds with one stone.

For a start, fewer players will head to the Engage Super League for cash and even fewer will pursue the tiring virtues of Union.