New schedule will bring out best in players
Australian rugby union player Ben Robinson, ARU chief executive John O'Neill and SANZAR CEO, Greg Peters. AAP Image/Paul Miller
The new Rugby Championship to be contested between All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and the recently joined Argentina Pumas is something I have been looking forward to for a couple of years now.
The IRB have showed their hand by declaring that Argentine players playing in Europe based competitions will be allowed a release from their individual clubs to play in the competition.
While next year will be one of the most hectic and physically demanding in the history of professional rugby, I also believe it is also a chance for the game to really take off and become a better product for Australia overall.
The Rugby Championship offers much more to the game in terms of revenue, entertainment value with Argentina being an up and coming rugby nation and a chance for the game to expand a little more in South America.
Hopefully it can become fully professional there as well in the foreseeable future.
I have seen a few people arguing that a combined Pacific Nations team should have been included instead, but in all honestly with each Pacific Nations governing body currently in turmoil over one drama or another and the difficulty in bringing the three Unions together every year makes it unlikely to succeed.
At the end of the day the Pacific Isles just don’t have the money, facilities or stability that Argentina offers.
Looking at the Wallabies’ 2012 schedule on a whole, they are taking two home matches to locations outside of a capital city for the first time in many years.
Two astute scheduling choices see Newcastle host the Scots in the first game of the international season and the Gold Coast play host to the historic match for the Pumas.
With the return of the three-match tour format, Wales will be Australia’s opponents and I think are by far the best team to be touring to prepare the Wallabies for the tough schedule they will face.
While there have been arguments of player burnout, John O’Neill has done the right move in the way the schedule and stadia choices have been set out.
We now have a format set in place that gives everybody a chance to get closer to the action.
Although the spring tour has yet to be announced, it would be wonderful for the Wallabies to have a chance at the ‘Grand Slam’ in 2012 to follow the All Blacks’ and Springboks’ last attempts in 2010.
While it will most likely be the case that the Wallabies will play at least Ireland and England, it may be a few years yet before they get the chance to replicate our sole success in 1984.
I for one think the Grand Slam is something each of the four southern hemisphere heavy weights should have a chance to accomplish on a rotating four year basis.
It would make for a fair system and something else to look forward to for fans of each nation at the end of the rugby season.
The new schedule will make for more physically demanding, yet exciting rugby for all and I hope that the game continues to expand and grow around the world.
The Wallabies may not be the best in the world at this point. However, 2012-13, I think, will really define this young ‘Gen Y’ Wallabies team and bring out the best in them and their abilities.