The Australian Rugby Union investigation into the invoice salary cap rort continues, and several premiership clubs are bound to find themselves in trouble over how they have lured players. The ARU is talking to several clubs over the Herald's report that an Australian province breached the salary-cap restrictions this year through an elaborate invoicing scheme. The scheme revolves around several players not being directly paid by the organisation, instead the player's club invoices the province for ''ground hire''. The province then paid the amount in cash to the club, which passed it on to the player. R&M has been told several clubs approached fringe Super Rugby players this season saying they would be able to pay them substantial amounts in cash so they could avoid taxation. The clubs alleged to be involved in this scheme, which is interwoven with the ground-hire invoices, would astound those in control at the ARU. Several powerful officials are determined to stamp out this form of recruitment. So club types should feel nervous, especially those who are using as a feeble defence that the ''ground hire'' involves finals matches being played at their home grounds.
Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who is spruiking a new biography, believes the Springboks would not have been a tougher proposition than the Wallabies if they had met in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. In an interview with New Zealand's Rugby News, Henry said he thought ''the Australians at that stage were a better team than the Springboks''. ''I was hoping we would play the South Africans, because I thought they would be an easier team to beat, but the players were just bloody delighted we were playing Australia,'' Henry said. ''They came through a different frame of reference to me. I was born a bit earlier than them, and South Africa has always been the enemy, but the players saw Australia as the big enemy. They were desperate to play Australia, so I knew we were going to beat Australia, or at least I had a bloody good idea we were going to beat Australia.''
Norm's big turnout
It was a cavalcade of stars at Norm ''Voice of Reason'' Tasker's 70th birthday bash last Sunday, with a bevy of past Wallabies revelling in the celebrations for the rugby scribe, former Gordon first-grade coach and one-time referee. The birthday function, organised by his wife, Morna, and John ''Fort Fumble'' Fordham, attracted Bruce Taafe, John Ballesty, Ross Turnbull, Geoff Shaw and Arthur McGill, while one of the keynote speakers was the great man of Australian cricket - Ian Chappell. Some of the tales included how Tasker, who covered the 1969 Wallabies tour of South Africa for the Sydney Sun newspaper, refereed the curtain-raiser at the Johannesburg Test, whistling away in front of 80,000 Ellis Park spectators before hitting the typewriter. Our spy Mark ''Pinky'' Cashman said that of the guests McGill looked in especially great shape, with an impressive pastel jumper draped over his shoulders.
The best idea of the week came from former Wallaby and renowned good guy James Grant, who suggested the outlandish Peter de Villiers would be perfect as the next Waratahs coach. Yes, it is a relationship made in heaven. It would certainly bring the crowds back, especially if they allow Tah Man to interview de Villiers on the field before each home game. And the ''house full'' signs would appear at every press conference, in contrast to the lonely and few who attended this year's miserable Waratahs media gatherings.
For the rugby rats
Those involved in Walla Rugby are excited about this year's registration numbers, as they are up 50 per cent. More than 62,000 students from 370 schools have registered for the fourth annual Walla Rugby Week from Monday to next Friday.
Dramas between a province and the ARU after a state official described someone at head office as ''Assad''.
Interesting altercation at a tense Sydney premiership match with a Super Rugby player being told by an opponent after the bell: ''You. Me. Car park. Now.''