Touch, pause, don’t engage: How the old rugby world is hurting the game

Andrew Roar Pro

By Andrew, Andrew is a Roar Pro

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    1995. It was the year Will Carling infamously and accurately described the RFU general committee as ’57-year-old farts’, and 22 years on his comments seem eerily prescient of the plaid and staid attitude rugby administration continues to exhibit towards non-traditional countries and regions.

    Georgia is banging down the door to play more top-level internationals, Argentina is now firmly ensconced in the international schedule, Japan is hosting the world cup and the Pacific Islands are finally gaining more exposure, however it seems every decision and arrangement made by the rugby world is still viewed through the prism of the Home Nations, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

    Of course as Bob Dylan sang, “money doesn’t talk, it swears”, and the current monied unions such as England are currently swearing like wharfies at the pub, spilling their drinks everywhere and dropping f-bombs like they’re going out of fashion.

    When a mild controversy sprung up at the back end of 2016 regarding the pay disparity between the England and Fiji players for their clash at Twickenham, RFU chief Ian Ritchie showed the subtlety of a parade of elephants by uttering the ugly retort, “It is not England’s responsibility to help fund world rugby, we have absolutely no obligation to do anything”.

    Chris Robshaw kneels

    (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    If this attitude was to trickle down all throughout rugby we might as well ban laying on post-match food and beers for the opposition, not allow players and fans from the other team any parking spaces and smear dog poo all over the away dressing room – which to be fair would probably be an upgrade on the smell in most rugby dressing rooms anyway.

    It’s just not cricket, and heaven forbid it actually goes down the same route as cricket, which has ridiculously decided to contract the number of nations participating in its World Cup down to 10.

    When Graham Henry headed to Argentina in a coaching consulting capacity in 2012 it showed a willingness to help spread ideas about the game and to embrace a different culture at the same time, even if they were in direct competition with his beloved All Blacks – something sadly missing in the ‘gap year’ mentality prevalent in many players who head overseas.

    Often these other countries, and even France, are merely reduced to clichés and soundbites, with generic terms and phrases such as “flair”, “solid scrum”, “you never know which team is going to turn up” and “plucky” trotted out with depressing regularity almost as a reflex action – so as not to bother with the same level of critical thinking and analysis bestowed upon the traditional heavyweights.

    A cautionary tale in all of this is Italy, who in retrospect were prematurely elevated to the Six Nations in 2000, such has been their struggle to remain competitive. Their clumsy integration resulted in them looking like the work experience kid being asked to be CEO all of a sudden, or a foreign exchange student being dropped off in the middle of town without directions home and wishing them luck (or alternatively, asking an ARU board member to find his way to a club rugby game from The Boathouse at Balmoral on a Saturday).

    The 2019 World Cup in Japan feels like the finishing of the initial 24-year chapter of professionalism, with the advent of the world calendar afterwards offering a fantastic opportunity to engage with the so-called ‘lesser’ countries and to begin greater co-operation and opportunities. Watching the Wallabies with 50,000 Georgians in Tbilisi? Sign me up.

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    The Crowd Says (59)

    • August 9th 2017 @ 3:01am
      matt jones said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:01am | ! Report

      another article bereft of consideration for the financial realities of modern sport. you did do the traditional blaming of administrators by casting stereotypes and thinking that 3 tiny pacific islands somehow is the way to a bigger status in the world of sport.
      Besides offering Georgia as a venue for a game this article offers no suggestions in how to improve rugby on the world stage. a crowd of 50k for a wallabies game there is possible and probably equal to the 85th biggest game in american college football that weekend

      • Roar Pro

        August 9th 2017 @ 5:13am
        Andrew said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:13am | ! Report

        Considering Georgia drew 55,000 fans to their game against Russia this year (http://www.planetrugby.com/news/rugby-europe-wrap-georgia-defeat-russia/) and the same number to their game against Romania last year, I imagine they would easily draw that against a tier 1 nation.

        Not saying Rugby needs a bigger status in the world of sport, as you put it, it just needs to work more on engaging with the emerging countries that already play it.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 9:29am
          Hoy said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

          Georgia vs Russia is a massive grudge match though… remember the World Cup in maybe 07 I think? when some of the Georgian team reportedly left the cup to go fight against Russia?

        • August 9th 2017 @ 11:48am
          ajg said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          i’d love to see georgia in the six nations and wish that the pacific islands had been a continuing presence in super rugby and the rugby championship.

          I think that 6ns would benefit from a diversity of teams (this would prevent italy and scotland always having to thrash it out for the wooden spoon).

          And the rugby championship would be better with less repeat games and trying to match the model of the 6n where each game is a grudge match. I think a round robin of 1 game each between SA, Aus, NZ, tonga, samoa, Fiji, and argentina would be an amazing tournament

          But matt is right. money is a huge factor and im not sure we’ll get away from the old power structures too much

        • August 9th 2017 @ 1:31pm
          Perthstayer said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          Andrew – A few considerations missing:

          Such as precedent when insinuating England were meanies for not sharing with Fiji. ABs complained last year they should have a bigger piece of Twickers pie. If England had shared with PI then law would say they have to share with others. (That by the way would set a precedent for all countries to have to share revenue).

          If Georgia is mentioned then PI needs assessing as well. What the 6N are doing to Georgia is nothing on what the SH has not done for PI. Just look what the lowly NRC has managed to achieve, although it is early days, the intention is admirable.

          It is not that simple to say let Georgia into 6N. At a time when people are screaming for fewer games and a World Calendar, Georgia in 6N means 2 more w/d’s of 6N. This in turn could well see the death of the BIL, which in turn deprives SH of significant revenue, which in turn could be spent on etc etc..

          • August 9th 2017 @ 7:47pm
            Bakkies said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:47pm | ! Report

            England are right not to revenue share as majority of nations can’t afford to give away half of their home gate. Not even the FFR who pay around €2 million in stadium rental when they play at the Stade de France

      • August 9th 2017 @ 9:09pm
        Johnno said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

        Matt Jones
        You seem to think the realities are a team like Wales should be more important to the rugby world as they bring more money than Tonga types etc, and bleeding heart rugby fans have to get over the realities that sport is a money making business, and equality has no currency the end.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 3:11am
      matt jones said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:11am | ! Report

      “Often these other countries, and even France, are merely reduced to clichés and soundbites, with generic terms and phrases such as “flair”, “solid scrum”, “you never know which team is going to turn up” and “plucky” ”
      this doesnt make any sense as France is hte financial power house of World Rugby and shows an anti English bias

      • Roar Pro

        August 9th 2017 @ 5:17am
        Andrew said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:17am | ! Report

        Should’ve been clearer this was more to do with the press coverage of these teams. During the 6 Nations this year there were about 1000 profile pieces about Hogg, Itoje, Sexton, Warburton etc and barely any about French or Italian players, and what I did read was just the usual hackneyed “which French team will turn up” and “Rome is a nice away day” drivel. Not debating that the French league is financially powerful – they even seem to wield more power than the French Rugby Federation.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 10:40am
          Bakkies said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          They wield more power than the FFR due to have more money. The FFR is nowhere near as flush with cash as the RFU. They had the opportunity to build their own money making version of Twickenham in the south of Paris however after being elected as FFR President Bernard Laporte scrapped the project. He has now got players on national contracts with their union which will see their club game time managed. It might actually provide more young players with an opportunity to shine which is what the IRFU do with their key internationals in the Pro 12.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 9:11pm
            Johnno said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

            wondering what happened to that grand plan for a rugby only stadium in Paris. It was also going to be built in the middle of no where along way from rugby’s fan bases. Basically being built like in Penrith type location.

            • August 10th 2017 @ 9:02am
              Bakkies said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

              It wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and a long way from the fan bases. It was always going to be in Paris where the money is and it had better access to the south than Stade de France which is located in a hole on the other side of the city.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 3:58am
      englishbob said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:58am | ! Report

      I agree that Italy are over elevated at 6N level as it stands, their club sides really struggle in the pro12 and there has been a noticeable decline in their standard especially over the last 3/4 years. The reason they wont be relegated to the 6N B (Btw Romania won that this year, not Georgia) is that you cant just say Italy are relegated, you’d have to do the lowest placed team in the 6N which has been Scotland twice in the last 6 years and that just wont fly. Tier 1 nations should play at least 1 tier 2 a year and come to an arrangement to provide some of the match income to help promote the game further afield.

      As for Fiji/Samoa/Tonga, the RFU gave Fiji an additional payment in 2016 equivalent to 5 x times their match fee for that game, more than others did. If you want to help them carry on the good work of an NRC team and get more south sea island players in super rugby.

      Besides and this is the crucial thing, apart from maybe England, no other tier 1 nation in the world would fill a stadium to play a japan/Georgia/Canada etc. And lastly, who does it benefit in an emerging rugby nation to watch NZ/ENG/SA put 50+ points on semi pro players, it reeks of old empire patronising

      • August 9th 2017 @ 4:35am
        matt jones said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:35am | ! Report

        your facts dont suit the authors argument that old administrators are supposedly holding rugby back

        Why is every second article on the roar “the administrators are holding the popularity of my favourite sport down”?

        • August 9th 2017 @ 4:54am
          englishbob said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:54am | ! Report

          maybe, especially the Scottish thing, but there has to be a balance struck. Using Scotland as an example, removing them from the 6N would remove two/three homes games against their closest rivals and all the free to air tv coverage and be cataclysmic for the game there, which would more than negate any benefit from Romania losing 5 games. Relegating Italy would set their development back years aswell.

          Take Argentina, aside from one win against aus and SA in three years, they’ve now stagnated and actively got worse in 2016/17, they have to shell out for god knows how many flights to SA AUS and NZ in the super rugby which must be ruining them.

          I think a possible solution would be for mini tournaments played in June in England/Wales. England Aus/Sa/NZ and say the winner of 6N B play eachother, top two play a final for a made up cup, all three teams split the fees for whichever games they participate in, exposure and money for the tier 2 team.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 11:05am
            puff said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            EB, this article has tried to highlight many issues which are far too complex to resolve on this site. But what I do notice, the quality of rugby in many east European countries is starting to gather momentum. That is because of T/V exposure among other things like visiting coaches and the donation of equipment.. According to an article I read when Georgia played NZ in the world cup, regardless of the score. The Georgia team felt they had achieved the ultimate dream and the viewing public was much larger than expected and this did wonders for the sport in their home country. Further, when NZ visit the NH, the cost of advertising during a test match increases something like 12 fold over the normal 6 nation estimate. Again according to the info, certain visiting teams capture the imagination of the viewing public particularly in regions that are novices in the code. What is required is more interaction with some of these nations and that is not difficult to achieve it just requires more commitment from T1 nations like OZ.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 1:00pm
            Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            English bob I have been very surprised that a competition every 4 years ( alternate 4 years to WC) hasnt been organised. The Soccer guys do it with the Euro cup etc and I cant see why a top 8 or top 6 type tournament at the middle of the WC cycle wouldnt be a major success. Imagine at the end of this year instead of the SH touring the NH, we had a top 6 ranked teams (Play 2 pool games then a final) or top 8 ( play 3 pool games then a final) . That would have given us a NZ v England game at some stage one would imagine and would also put a greater emphasis on getting rankings. Top 6 ATM is NZ England SA Ireland Aus and Scotland with Wales and France at 7 and 8…Only has to be 4 weeks or even 3.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 7:12am
        NaBUru38 said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        “who does it benefit in an emerging rugby nation to watch NZ/ENG/SA put 50+ points on”

        That happens because tier 2 unions much much less resources than tier 1 unions.

        The ARO has a 120 million budget. Argentina’ s UAR has 10 milllion. Uruguay has 3 million.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 5:00am
      Clyde said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:00am | ! Report

      This article makes no sense at all. The traditional rugby nations are hurting the game right? Then what… The ARU can show that they are not a bunch of old farts by having the kicked out from super rugby Force do a good deed for world rugby by playing non-traditional rugby nations (pacific islands, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Georgia and Portugal etc.) home and away every year until 2020. It is a win-win situation.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 7:49am
      Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Is a global season/world calendar definitely happening in 2020 then, Andrew? Any details on it?

      It would have been funny if the Italians had beaten the Wallabies in June, though, wouldn’t it? I almost hoped we would lose I was so angry at how we were playing.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 7:49am
      Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Is a global season/world calendar definitely happening in 2020 then, Andrew? Any details on it?

      It would have been funny if the Italians had beaten the Wallabies in June, though, wouldn’t it? I almost hoped we would lose I was so angry at how we were playing.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 7:51pm
        Bakkies said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

        Yeah it is. June series pushed to July to accommodate Super Rugby if it is around then. New tours schedule that includes countries Georgia, etc will be discussed

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