First the good news: Foxtel is almost worth the price of subscribing again with seven Super 14 games this weekend, starting at 5.35 pm today eastern daylight saving with the Auckland Blues v Christchurch Crusaders, followed by the Western Force in Perth against the Highlanders, through to a couple of South African sides in the wee small hours of Sunday morning. Wonderful.

The unfortunate news: You never know the form until it’s played, but before a ball is booted it looks like we’ll be lucky to have a single Australian side standing in the final four.

The bad news: The politics continues. Try this sample from the rumours paragraph of the SMH’s Ruck & Maul column:

Strong mutterings around the provinces – everyone that is except the Reds – that “Fast” Eddie Jones will be sighted at the next World Cup, helping one of Australia’s opponents. England, did I hear someone say? Good mail that when the ABC broadcasts the new national provincial championship, it will receive $250,000 from the organisers for its troubles.

A group of disgruntled sponsors are organising a meeting to discuss their less than amicable relationship with the ARU. Did an ARU staff member get shown the door for allegedly leaking ARU board papers to an IRB official?

Back to the merely unfortunate stuff, the local rugby press is doing what it should in boosting the various parochial hopes, but it’s looking bleak against the might, power, speed and incredible depth of NZ rugby.

John Eales very reasonably forecast in the AFR last week that the Brumbies will be the best of the Australians this year – but that choice can be made pretty much by process of elimination.

The Queensland Reds, god bless ‘em, are in rebuilding mode with new coach Eddie Jones and without their best player (Latham), the Waratahs have been very hard hit by injury (both their first-choice second-rowers out for the season just for starters) and departures, and the Western Force will do better than last year but lack depth, never mind the pressure to justify the Giteau splurge.

But never mind, it’s worth the price of admission to see how well the Force go tonight and the Brumbies against the Chiefs tomorrow afternoon.

And then there’s the Six Nations starting as well, with Wales v Ireland the best of those three matches with the real contest looming in the next round: Ireland v France – the two teams carrying the Northern Hemisphere’s hopes into the World Cup.

As the beer ad says, it’s all good.

Peter Fray

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