Dan Carter needs better mates and journos are going soft.

These are the major learnings from the opening exchanges of the Rugby World Cup. We’ll ignore these learnings at our peril, Dan and us journos. We need to absorb these learnings and develop an urgent action plan.

Step one will be none of us ever using the word learnings again. Because it’s a daft affectation used in place of ‘lessons’, and there was nothing at all wrong with the word lessons in the first place. Learnings is the type of word people use purely because no one has ever had the stones to front up to them and point out they sound like daft twits.

Which, funnily enough, is precisely the fate that appears to have befallen a once great former All Blacks playmaker.

Dan Carter’s ball bags on sale now https://t.co/uVdsBmbmtp

— Brendan Kelly (@brendankellol) September 20, 2019

Yes, it’s easy to point the finger at Carter and suggest that, as a grown man, he should realise that pretending to have co-designed a rugby ball-themed man bag with a bunch of Louis Vuitton luvvies – and then punting the limited edition monstrosity on social media – was a truly horrendous use of his hard-won fame. But Carter is hardly the first sports celeb to be blinded by bling. Nor is he the first to grab at easy endorsement cash before the light fades and the marketeers decamp for greener pastures.

So let’s not be too hard on Carter for taking time out from encouraging people to rack up credit card debt at the World Cup to flog ball bags.

The people who truly deserve our scorn are Carter’s mates; the cads close to him who lacked the courage to stage an intervention before a national icon made a monstrous tit of himself.

Where were you dead souls when your mate (and your country) needed you?

This may seem like an over-reaction, until one considers a deluge of negative feedback that would make Spark Sport feel like they had a good week by comparison.

Combining his unique interest set. Rugby, gauche consumerism and high brow gimp attire — Adrian 🏉 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 🇳🇿 🏉 (@ashcustomworks) September 21, 2019

And the best of them…

How the hell do you explain this to Richie?

— tony coggan (@CogganTony) September 21, 2019

Incredibly, a limited edition Dan Carter-designed Louis Vuitton ball bag wasn’t even the most crass, pointless, cringeworthy piece of marketing fluff to assault rugby fans in opening week.

That was, of course, this monstrosity produced by England’s sponsors O2.

Over the last four years, every blade of grass has taken us closer to Japan 🇯🇵

Now the team and a nation of fans are ready.

Are you with us? #WearTheRose and be their armour with @O2sports. pic.twitter.com/HihZOObz8F

— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 18, 2019

Which obviously went down great.

What. A. Shambles. #culturalappropriation much #embarrassing

— Scott Crawford (@chunkymcfatso) September 18, 2019




— WALES UNDERGROUND (@wales_ndergrnd) September 19, 2019

The mad thing was that there had to be many many people involved in approving this idea..”let’s take cultural appropriation, KKK rallies, our reputation for unwarranted aggression and imperial invasion and make a feel good video..” what the flying fuck….

— patrick mullarkey (@pmullarkey) September 19, 2019

Which all goes to show that, while Twitter may be a cesspit of bile, it is also the home of the unashamed straight shooter.

It’s tempting to joke about England’s armour lacking a diamond-encrusted Louis Vuitton codpiece – however there is no shortage of evidence to suggest that idea will be picked up and run with if this article falls into the wrong hands, so we won’t go there.

While the twitterati struggled to muster much sympathy for Carter and O2’s England, the same, somewhat strangely, can’t be said for Rugby World Cup’s honest triers, Spark Sport.

Having awoken Sunday morning to find three – yes three – ‘urgent’ middle of the night press releases from the fledgling streaming service in our inbox, this column didn’t exactly need to read on to figure out that the telco’s debut on sports broadcasting’s big stage hadn’t gone quite as well as hoped.

With pissed-off customers seemingly everywhere, the fallout was predictably Fukushima in scale. What was a little less predictable was the level of sympathy for Spark’s staff.

Multiple messages invaded this column’s timeline asserting that people shouldn’t shoot the messengers – the hard-working front-line presenters at Spark Sport – just because their operation had largely failed to deliver their messages.

The likes of (bloody excellent) lead commentator Scotty Stevenson and his band of sideline reporters and studio talking heads would be deeply upset that, despite working their butts off, they’d been a party to serving up a pig’s arse. Piling the opprobrium on these delicate souls would be harsh and unnecessary, was the counter-narrative.

That was sweet. And weird.

People from all walks of life try really hard to do all sorts of stuff only to fail spectacularly, often enough due to reasons beyond their control. Typically, it’s we media types who apply the bulk of the slippering to the huddled frames of the fallen.

That’s the gig. If there’s one class of citizen who doesn’t deserve much sympathy when we crash and burn, surely it is journalists?

The suggestion the rod should be spared so as to avoid bruising delicate egos would have been anathema to most journos not all that long ago; likewise the idea that experienced professionals couldn’t roll with a punch or two.

Given the potential benefits of pluralism in the sports entertainment industry in this country – both for consumers and those employed in it – it is no surprise there is a decent reservoir of goodwill for Spark Sport. Of course we wish them all the best.

But when All Blacks’ ball bags are being sold as high-end collectors’ items instead of being sewed up at half time; English rugby forwards willingly play dress-up and pretend to be extras in The Last Samurai; and journalists would rather trade in tea and sympathy than risk offending each other, it’s hard not to think we’ve gotten a little soft.

How are we going to explain this to Richie?

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