Fiji Rugby Blog’s post today is a well thought out presentation of the failure to globalise rugby. As well some of the reasons why the Rugby World Cup has been favoured for several teams and why smaller rugby nations should be allowed to have some input in the IRB decision making body. Thus have a level playing field for the snaller nations with the tradional powerhouses in the international Cup competition. You can check this discussion on the Planet Rugby forum at http://planet-rugby.com
WHY THE WORLD CUP WILL BE A FARCE
Rugby’s World Cup began with a hiss and a roar in the latter stages of the amateur era.
The first three tournaments produced three different winners and five different finalists.
There were surprises, there were near upsets, and there were new qualifiers every time.
In the professional age, conversely, the tournament has descended into a farce.
During the last installment, 2003, there was only one upset in 48 games.
No team debuted in the quarter-finals, which were contested by the same eight who were dominating the game a century ago.
In 2003 there was just one debutante, Georgia.
There will be just one debutante again, Portugal, for this year’s event in France.
In defending its decision to award the 2011 Rugby World Cup to 1987 hosts New Zealand, the IRB made reference to soccer’s progress in the previous century.
But soccer’s first five World Cups were held in entirely different countries, and not until its 13th edition in 1986, when Mexico stepped in for Colombia, did any nation host it for a second time.
By the time soccer had staged its fifth World Cup, 12 different nations had appeared in the semi-finals and over 30 had played at the tournament.
Only seven teams have so far appeared in rugby’s World Cup semi-finals, and just 23 have played at its tournament – which comprises 20 teams.
This despite the advantages of vastly improved transportation and communication technology.
Moreover, world class soccer leagues were operating throughout Europe and Latin America and a pan-European championships had been drafted.
The European nations and Copa Americas tournaments, open to all teams within those regions, were just around the corner.
Rugby in 2007 remains confined to two elite tournaments, comprising a grand total of nine teams, and neither of which is geographically all-embracing.
Italy has been the only addition to Europe’s elite competition since 1910.
There can be little doubt that the International Rugby Board is a facade.
Lift aside the flags of ninety-five nations and you will find a self-absorbed little nest of primarily eight.
Rugby’s world constitutes the British Isles, France, Australasia and South Africa.
These overwhelmingly hold the balance of power, with 16 of 21 seats on the IRB. These are the same member unions which were dominating the game in 1907!
While paying lip service to globalization, it is clear the privileged few are only looking out for themselves.
Funding (much of it generated by that lopsided money-spinner which masquerades as a World Cup) is all well and good, but the only way to bring rugby’s vast majority up to speed is by engaging them in regular competition at the highest level.
The so-called ’emerging’ nations (some of which have been ’emerging’ since time immemorial) suffer greatly through lack of access to elite geographical competitions (Italy notwithstanding), unfair and inadequate schedules (notably the Pacific Islands) and non-availability of first-choice players.
Trade not Aid.
Why invite 20 teams to the tournament’s showpiece event when half of them are not deemed fit to bother with the rest of the time?
The All Blacks have been installed as favourites for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. But what are we to make of these New Zealand All Blacks, who roam rugby’s tiny world vanquishing the same half dozen foe year after year? Are we to admire them when it is the NZRFU which has played an integral role in keeping the pond so small?
New Zealand, in particular, is obsessed with world domination of the sport. It has sabotaged its international development by blocking all attempts to expand the Southern Hemisphere’s premier tournaments beyond three nations.
What are we to make of a nation whose rugby scouts plunder the Pacific Islands but whose administrators refuse to help develop those same islands through regular international competition?
It is interesting to draw a further comparison to the “parent code” here. Soccer began to make real progress only after Brazilian Joao Havelange wrested the FIFA presidency away from the conservative Englishman Stanley Rous.
Rugby is still being held back by Anglo stuffiness. It is no accident that of the major unions France has done by far the most to globalize the game through the FIRA competitions.
England, to its credit, has recently begun to take the game to North America by way of the Churchill Cup tournament. But even here, the very name of the trophy gives some indication of the prevalent mentality within English rugby. It is ultra-nationalistic.
The sport is going nowhere so long as the privileged few continue to hold sway and their xenophobic, myopic agendas take priority over the interests of the global game.
The IRB needs a complete overhaul; an injection of new blood conducive to a broader, less stagnant world order, which may well produce the “Joao Havelange” the international game so desperately requires.