- After two losses, Eddie Jones’s men are set to go out at the pool stage
- For rugby to thrive as a global sport, it needs a strong Australian team
- A two-tier World Cup would allow tournament to expand to 24 teams
I am really enjoying this World Cup.
There have already been plenty of highs and lows — and it’s only going to get better.
Here are my tournament talking points from the action we’ve seen so far…
No true rugby fan should be celebrating Aussie woe
It has been alarming to see a great rugby country like Australia struggle so badly, even while acknowledging how brilliant Fiji and Wales were in confirming their obvious decline.
Australia are in disarray following the defeats to Wales and Fiji at the World Cup
After two losses, Eddie Jones’s men are set to go out at the pool stage this weekend
Wallabies are two-time winners and have never been knocked out before the quarter-finals
The Wallabies are two-time winners and have never been knocked out before the quarter-finals. But after two losses, Eddie Jones’s men are set to go out at the pool stage this weekend. If Fiji beat Georgia, their exit will be confirmed. Many English supporters might revel in one of their rivals being in disarray, but not me. For rugby to thrive as a global sport, it needs a strong Australia.
Going out in the pool stage should not happen to leading countries. It seems clear Australian rugby has a lot of structural problems. I couldn’t believe their boss Hamish McLennan said after the Wales loss that Australia can and will still attract players from rugby league. I’m not sure that’s the answer.
Jason Robinson is the only player I can think of who has had global success transferring from league to union. That includes all the Australian converts. Did they really make a difference?
Bringing players in from league is not the best way to fix Australia. In fact, the opposite is needed. They should be looking at their own pathway systems and how they develop players of their own to get back to being one of rugby’s leading nations.
Terrestrial TV is crucial to success of World Cup
I appreciate I’m biased because I’m working for ITV at this World Cup, but I was surprised to hear comments from the senior leadership at World Rugby that they would consider taking their biggest tournament to paid-for television.
Why say that in the middle of the competition? Why not wait until the end? World Rugby should be very careful. Taking the World Cup away from terrestrial television could be another huge own goal. It would be another nail in the game’s coffin.
When you work in rugby day in, day out, you can think it’s the biggest sport in the world. In reality, it’s not. Having the World Cup on ITV widens the game’s audience and makes it accessible to as many people as possible.
It’s the same with the Six Nations. I’m not privy to the finances, but sometimes decisions have to be about more than the money. This is one of them. Maybe a joint bid from ITV and the BBC would work to keep it away from pay-to-view.
Is it time we had a two-tier World Cup?
I’ve seen lots of people say rugby should be looking to expand the World Cup from 20 to 24 teams to grow the game in developing nations. Of course, it is vital the sport does that.
Georgia’s draw with Portugal and Uruguay’s match against Namibia were fantastic to watch
But I’m not sure putting more teams into the World Cup is the answer, not unless you split the tournament in two. You could have an ‘A’ World Cup and a ‘B’ World Cup — call it whatever you will.
It’s crucial that teams such as Namibia and Chile are given chances to progress, but I’m not sure how much they learned from losing 96-0 and 71-0 to France and England respectively.
We want competitive games at the highest level and, if you speak to more casual rugby fans, they don’t understand why such one-sided games are happening. In football, it’s different. Upsets do happen. Teams can win 1-0 against all the odds.
I have been impressed with Georgia, Portugal and Uruguay at this tournament. Georgia’s draw with Portugal was a fantastic game. So too was Uruguay against Namibia. In a two-tier World Cup, we would have more games like that.
Teams such as England and Ireland should still play against so-called weaker nations to grow the sport overall, but I’m not sure doing it at a World Cup is beneficial to them.
In my view, England should have an ‘A’ side who play far more regularly against the likes of Chile in autumn and summer Tests and not just every four years.
Crowds are turning up in big numbers to watch these mismatches, which is a great credit to the French fans. But that will just not happen four years from now in Australia, where rugby is not as popular.
Post source: Daily mail