Is there room for a second division Rugby Championship?
The inclusion of Argentina into the Rugby Championship has got me thinking about the state of International Rugby on this side of the world.
Despite displaying their obvious competitiveness with the big teams, the ‘minnows’ that everyone was raving about during the World Cup have once again been hidden away in obscurity due to their lack of involvement in major tournaments.
Some of these countries are involved in obscure tournaments such as the Pacific Nations Cup, which does not have half the prestige these nations deserve on the world stage.
Those without short memories will remember the scenes of 2011 where Samoa pushed RSA and Wales to the edge to get a win, Japan giving France a real scare by playing a highly entertaining game of fast recycling of the ball and Tonga finishing the job against Les Bleus. So why can’t they be part of a top tournament as well?
A possible way of gradually including these nations is to have a second tier under the banner of the Rugby Championship, running during the same window as the main competition.
The ability of some of these teams (with a full strength squad) to match it with the top tier means that promotion and relegation is viable as well, meaning all of a sudden there is more to the original Rugby Championship, with no more questions regarding weak World Cup years squads, as finishing last could have actual consequences.
Player release is the tricky issue and the IRB needs to look at bringing in actual player release windows to help ease these tugs of war over players. Any tournament without its stars is a sub-standard tournament.
Here’s a possible international weekend broadcast schedule (AEST), with a second division:
Friday: Samoa versus Tonga 5:30 PM
Japan versus Fiji 7:30 PM
Saturday: USA versus Canada 12:30 AM
Australia versus New Zealand 7:30PM
Sunday: Argentina versus South Africa 9:00 AM
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