Scrums Sevens
Scrum Sevens: Extraordinary rugby rants
Will Macpherson
December 9, 2014
"Don't cry for me, Richard Cockerill" - Martin Castrogiovanni let rip at his old Leicester boss © Getty Images

In honour of Martin Castrogiovanni's whole-hearted tirade against Richard Cockerill this weekend, Scrum Sevens recalls rugby's most staggering rants. Strap in tight and get those earmuffs on, this could be an uncomfortable ride...

The player-takes-on-coach rant

Enter Martin Castrogiovanni. The fiery Italian has raised the bar by some distance in this category with his foul-mouthed tirade against Richard Cockerill. Our lesson has been learned - never cross Castro (especially when it comes to money).

For 18 months the former Welford Road favourite has evidently been stewing in the south of France over his departure from the Midlands (where he still co-owns an Italian restaurant), which didn't seem all that acrimonious at the time. How wrong we were.

We don't have space for the full rant in this column, but here are some choice cuts: "I never want to speak with Cockers any more. I am the kind of guy that if I hate you, if you are not clear with me or if you have been a c*** … "

"People talked about this s*** and money. Cockers talks about the money, but the real reason I left this club is because you have Cole and you have me. What the f*** you want? You have a good f****** tighthead prop playing for England and a hairy fat Italian. The thing is that they made it look like I went for the money but I paid £100,000 from my pocket to leave this club because I want to play rugby."

Well there you go, then. One senses that, however fond they may be of their director of rugby, the place of this "fairy fat Italian" in the hearts of the Welford Road faithful may have just soared that little bit higher.

The coach-takes-on-ref rant

Poor old referees. There's no winning is there? Inevitably, they come in for a fair bit of stick, especially from defeated coaches on the hunt for a scapegoat when a microphone is thrust in front of them before they've given a controversial incident so much as a second glance.

Toulon's Bernard Laporte fields questions from journalists, September 14, 2011
Bernard Laporte is not one to hold his tongue © Getty Images

Coaches can be fiery sorts when they feel wronged and the charge sheet in this department is lengthy: Cockerill himself has dished out a few, Jake White took umbrage with South African refs (all of them) while he was Brumbies coach, Graham Henry vented spleen earlier this year after the Blues (where he is an assistant coach) were victim of a controversial TMO decision against the Crusaders, and Eddie Jones copped a $10,000 fine during his torrid stint as Reds coach for describing Matt Goddard as "disgraceful" and "lacking common sense."

Earlier this year, Toulon coach Bernard Laporte (who is hardly an anti-establishment figure having served as Sports Minister in the French government) matched them all by describing Top 14 ref Laurent Cardona as "hopeless" and "incompetent". Laporte added for good measure: "He robs us every time. It is not just this incident where he was hopeless. He was hopeless all the matches. He is always hopeless." All of which brought a 13-week ban, naturally.

The PM has a pop

The situation in Samoa in recent times has been far from simple and shows no signs of abating, which is of great frustration to just about everyone involved in the game. The players feel wronged and all sorts of rumours spread during their end-of-year tour of Europe about how much they earned, where they stayed and what was expected of them. The situation was complicated further by the make-up of the views of the key figure of authority at the Samoa Rugby Union: Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi - the board's chairman who also happens to be the country's prime minister.

The situation descended into farce when Tuilaepa took to his weekly national radio show to blast the players, who he described as "little brats" guilty of "foolish thinking". Tuilaepa continued on his extraordinary rant and said he had written to the players involved, "addressing them as a father would to kids who don't understand." Cue a furious response from the playing ranks who threatened to strike. That boycott was averted but this is a story that simply refuses to go away.

The social media rant

Quade Cooper prepares to photograph some action, Queensland Reds v New South Wales Waratahs, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, July 12, 2014
Quade Cooper might be better sticking to photography instead of writing © Getty Images

Social media has opened a whole host of new avenues for sportsmen to get it wrong in an extremely modern, very public way and rugby's finest are no different. There are countless candidates for the gong here: Danny Care took a pop at Wayne Barnes in 2010, Digby Ioane copped a self-imposed imposed Twitter ban in 2011 for an impulsive sledge at Kiwi ref Keith Brown in 2011 and Sharks full-back Stefan Terblanche wore a fine for a rant (an ultimately incorrect one, too) about Super XV player eligibility in the same year.

But top prize goes to Quade Cooper for his choice of target in 2012. Refs and opposition are easy pickings but taking a swipe at your coach, team environment and national hierarchy in one fell swoop from the comfort of your sofa takes a very peculiar kind of bravery. Cooper, sidelined with injury at the time, tweeted (and then quickly deleted): "I love rugby but there's s*** going on behind and above the players the effects whole organisation" (sic), slammed Robbie Deans' Wallabies' boring playing style and "toxic environment" and dropped numerous hints that he could be off to the NRL to join his mate Sonny Bill Williams. That'll learn 'em.

The serial offender

Oh, Eliota. Former Bath, Gloucester and Samoa centre Eliota Fuimano-Sapola has been in trouble more times than you could imagine when he's let his tongue - or typing fingers - go wild. He's emerged as the voice of the disenfranchised Polynesian rugby bloc with a series of fiery opinions voiced in interviews and on social media that make him the authorities' worst nightmare. He peaked at the 2011 World Cup, where he likened the schedule, which saw Samoa given just a three-day turnaround for one game, to slavery, the holocaust and apartheid, before describing Nigel Owens' performance in Samoa's game against South Africa as "racist" and "biased", bringing him a six-month suspended sentence.

Less than a month later he was back in the dock after an extraordinary Twitter attack on Owen Farrell after Gloucester lost 19-17 to Sarries. "To young rugby players do not be arrogant. If you want to be tough on the field make sure you back it up off it. #farrell," Fuimaono-Sapolu posted. "Love it when players talk big on the field in front of the camera. I like to see if they still talk big off the field when no cameras around. Don't use the pitch to showcase your FAKE toughness you p***y s***."

The caught-red-handed-on-TV rant

James Haskell sits out of England training, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, England, October 28, 2014
James Haskell lit up coverage of the 2011 World Cup © Getty Images

There were all sorts of very memorable things that went wrong during England's 2011 World Cup campaign. Among myriad other indiscretions, their most senior player led an almighty night on the tiles in party capital Queenstown, their most junior player took a dip in Auckland Harbour and all their players exited in the quarter-finals. It was going wrong from the start - that Queenstown jamboree happened before their first game against Argentina, which in turn saw a very green Courtney Lawes caught red-handed kneeing an opponent in the face. Cue the first suspension of the tour.

It was ITV who were left red-faced, though, as they had their ref mics turned up that little bit too loud with the players in close quarters and managed to pick up James Haskell effing, blinding and generally turning the air blue at Pumas prop Martin Scelzo after he thought he'd gouged him. Scelzo was apparently a 'f***ing c***' as well as various other choice insults but Nick Mullins on commentary, ever the professional, was quick to apologise on Haskell's behalf. No doubt this sort of carry on happens countless times per game, but what a pleasure to be party to it.

The anti-rant

Saracens' technical director Brendan Venter and director of rugby Mark McCall reflect on their side's fortunes, Saracens v Toulon, Heineken Cup semi-final, Twickenham, April 28, 2013
"It's not the losing that bothers me, it's having to do the post-match interview..." © Getty Images

Brendan Venter isn't the smiliest chap in the game and when he was Saracens director of rugby he had a habit of finding himself in the RFU dock. In 2009-10, having already criticised referees earlier in the season, he received a 10-week ban for "provocative behaviour and inappropriate gestures" during a game against Leicester at Welford Road and six months later he was in trouble again for saying "rugby is going to die, be killed stone dead because the public won't come to watch" unless the IRB changed the breakdown. Inevitably, he was fined by the ERC. Venter by name, venter by nature.

His response after Sarries next European game was quite extraordinary: Venter chose to say nothing at all in his post-match interview. Rather than say anything that would have him back in the dock, he simply mocked the clichéd post-match interviews that typically blight sport these days. "I'll have to think very deeply about what went wrong, very deeply," he nodded after the defeat to Racing Metro and, speaking about Sereli Bobo's fine try, he said "Bit of Genius. A bit of magic. Sireli Bombo, very interesting, very good ja. Very good. Three cheers for Sireli Bombo. Very good, very good."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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