The All Blacks can’t bear to think about a rare third straight defeat as the Pumas look to “do it for Diego” in Saturday night’s Tri Nations crunch match in Newcastle.
While we are all debating changes to every aspect of the game of rugby, I’d like to float a couple of hare-brained concepts that I think would add an extra dimension to the rugby calendar.
1. The Pacific Nations Cup should be played as a travelling roadshow of triple headers.
This would require Australia A to participate once again, obviously, but if it were to be played in Australia with its large stadium and multi-cultural population, they could surely sell out ANZ stadium in Sydney or Suncorp in Brisbane and maybe even the MCG in Melbourne (they supposedly love their sport down there).
You would have supporters from every nation turning up creating a massive festival of rugby for one ticket price.
It would ease the burden of running costs, such as stadium hire by sharing between six instead of the usual two.
You’d also get a lot more non-hardcore Aussie and Kiwi fans coming along who wouldn’t normally turn out for the junior All Black’s or Australia A as they would be attracted by the smorgasbord of quality rugby and flair on offer.
The atmosphere would be great. Most people who’d paid to see one team would stick around to see the other games, and once you’re there, you can just pick a side and cheer for them.
2. Create a 10 nations championship.
This is inspired by my EA sports rugby dream competition that I play on the computer, but basically it’s an event where the top 10 teams in the world compete, playing each other once.
Ideally I would place this every eight years and alternate with the World Cup, which would mean we’d get less World Cups but the concept actually generates a comparable number of matches (45 for 10N – 48 for RWC). And what’s more, it increases the average quality of each match.
The makeup of the top 10 nations, particularly who makes the cut, would be a bit of a puzzle to solve. But, for example, you could have the four World Cup semi-finalists as automatic entry.
The next placed competitors in the 6 Nations and Tri-Nations also get automatic entry then the remaining four places by a qualification system.
The qualification eligibility could be based on World Cup results giving the second tier teams actual purpose in doing comparatively well at the world cup beyond pride.
It could be used vice-versa, with the top 6 finishers being given automatic entry into the World Cup and top 4 being given rights to not be in the same pool as each other, thereby ensuring ongoing challenge for likely low/mid table finishers.
Given the distances, the best way would most likely to hold the event in a single country for 9 weeks. It would be like a more complex 6 Nations with permutations, combinations and calculations abounding right up to the last match to see where everyone finishes.
3. The British Lions series has lost some shine, due to its regularity and exposure, not to mention that they’ve lost their last three stretching back to Australia in 2001.
Series such as these should be billed as the best against the best and so I propose that two years after every World Cup (or 10 nations championship) the Hemisphere that didn’t contain the winning nation shall send a combined team to play a series against the world champions.
The northern hemisphere would obviously send the British Lions and the southern hemisphere could alternate between a Pacific team (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa and Japan) and an Atlantic Team (South Africa and Argentina).
Selection would be even more sought-after due to the increased rarity of selection opportunities.
It would also stop the embarrassing situation in 2005 where the Lions containing numerous English current world champions were smashed by semi finalist New Zealand.
You’ll always be playing the best against the best, and so a loss does no huge damage to either side or the concept as a whole (unlike the 2005 Lions) and even an embarrassing loss wouldn’t be happening every four years (necessarily).
So that’s my wish list for rugby.
I think it would give everyone a good time watching through the years and we should definitely do it. A bit more spice, variety and quality rugby for everyone.