Adam Hathaway urges players to put their phones away and get off social media unless they are posting something really interesting and pays tribute to a giant of the game who is retiring.
Another week and another social media storm with rugby players involved – when will they ever learn?
They are not the only sportsmen or women to cop it, but come on – it is time to realise that this stuff gets read and most players should be issued with burner phones like the bad guys have in Line of Duty.
Because the guff you put out on your contract phones gets read by everyone or didn’t you realise that? It is part of the deal and unbelievably people are interested in what you have to say, and they will retweet it and then it spreads like wildfire.
We have all put stuff on social media we regret after one over the eight but no-one really gives a monkey’s what 99 per cent of people post.
So take a breath, all of you.
This stuff will never be erased. It is in the ether.
And it is in the ether forever.
It gets read by your coach, by your team mates, by your employer, by your sponsors, by your parents, by your mates and by your fans. It gets read by your partners, the people who give you a mortgage and the people who have got your back.
You might have some views but keep them to yourself, it is just not worth it these days.
Tell us what you had for breakfast instead, show us a picture of your cat, update us on the cricket scores or the 3.45 from Newmarket. Frankly the last two are more interesting.
There have been a couple of examples of half wittery over the last few days and some big names have been half wits. The web is a monster.
A million years ago we used to file copy on phones, landlines by the way, from rugby grounds and the internet was a distant dream.
Nowadays you just press a button and your deathless prose lands in the in box of a bloke you have never had a pint with and he, or she, cuts it to ribbons.
Now you can post your views on religion, politics, Strictly Come Dancing and Brexit and the whole world can see them in an instant.
And it is destroying careers.
First Israel Folau, the Australian full-back, put a bizarre post up telling the world that “drunks, homosexuals, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists,” and “idolators,” had a hot seat in hell awaiting them.
If you don’t tick at least one of those boxes then good for you, if you do – see you there, we’ll keep a chair warm by the fire.
Folau, who is one of the top three full-backs in the world but who has previous for social media outbursts, is entitled to his views and he stuck by them on Sunday when quizzed.
But he won’t be going to the World Cup in Japan. The Aussie Rugby Union made sure of that on Monday when they issued their statement in the early hours over here.
And fair play to the Wallabies because he is one of their best players and would walk into most teams in the world.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle, was quoted in it saying: “At its core, this is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values.
“Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations. It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.”
And Michael Cheika, the Aussie coach, backed that up when he told the Wallaby hacks: “Getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team’s about. When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia – everyone. Everyone that’s out there is supporting us. We don’t pick and choose.”
And Billy Vunipola had stoked the flames by ‘liking’ Folau’s post and then putting out an explanation for why he did.
Don’t bother Billy, there is no upside to this. You know it is going to go all around what used to be called the world wide web like news of a Tiger Woods birdie at Augusta, it is not worth the hassle.
RugbySpy will declare an interest in Billy V. He is one of the most approachable players on the circuit and always has time for a chat. He is also the best English No.8 since Lawrence Dallaglio and a priceless asset for their World Cup challenge.
But come on, Billy, don’t get involved.
Other players then ‘liked’ Big Billy’s posts. Why?
We are all for free speech, we frequently get called out for what we say, but we are not jeopardising a career in pro rugby. There is some serious cash involved and these days sponsors, and some of the players corporate deals are eye-watering, do not like getting caught up in this sort of stuff.
RugbySpy talked to a high ranking communications person during the furore, and this one has got legs, and he told us that all these players have big dosh sponsors who are ready to jump on any indiscretion and cancel the flow of readies.
Vunipola has already been ditched by Channel 4 and reports on Sunday suggested more of his backers were considering their position. He was ticked off by his club on Monday and given a formal warning and reminder that he is on duty at all times even on the dreaded Instagram.
He also got booed when he came off the bench for Saracens against Bristol on Saturday night. And all this on the weekend when the Premiership games were used as a vehicle to promote Restart the Rugby Players’ Association campaign that helps players who have had health, including mental health, issues.
And he is due to be hauled over the coals by the RFU this week and Saracens needed this distraction before a European semi-final against Munster like a hole in the head.
But they were delighted at Harlequins that Big Billy took the 10th anniversary of the Bloodgate scandal out of the limelight. Every cloud and all that.
We know for a fact that players get warned about the perils of the dreaded social media – so give it a rest boys and girls.
Lads, and lasses, just turn your phones off, bite your lip now and again and keep your fingers to yourselves.
Just send us a picture of your bacon sandwich or a dog on a moped. Isn’t that what the internet is for?
On Monday morning we got an email in our in box informing us that James Horwill, the Harlequins lock and a former Wallaby, will be retiring at the end of the season.
Horwill won 62 caps for the Wallabies between 2007 and 2016 but has a face that looks like he played in 162 Tests.
Great bloke too.
He has been at Quins since 2015 and every time Australia have landed on these shores he has been happy to shoot the breeze, normally at the club’s training ground in Guildford, about all things to do with Wallaby rugby.
His retirement statement did the usual by thanking all his mates and all the rest. But the telling comment came at the end.
“Special thanks must go to the physios, doctors and surgeons, who have put me back together. We probably spent more time together than we would have liked, but without your expertise and continued care, I wouldn’t have been able to play for as long.
“I have given this great game everything I have, and I feel I can no longer give what is needed to play at this elite level. I want to thank all the coaches and staff I’ve worked with over my career; you have all made an impact and shaped me into the player and person I am today.”
Horwill is 33 but has spent most of the last 15 years being patched up to play. It is a reminder of what these blokes do every week.
Go well, Big Man and thanks for your time.