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With the 2015 Rugby Championship upon us I thought now would be a good time as any to review the relevancy and history of the Tri-Nations and its successor.
While most expectations are that this year’s tournament will be little more than a warm-up for the big three in their quest for World Cup glory, their real hopes seem to be consolidating their final squad.
But I still sense it is not just this year’s TRC that lacks the same interest and intensity of years gone by, especially in South Africa, with empty stadium becoming more common at Springbok matches. And it is not just because of the upcoming World Cup.
The writing of this article stems from a quote by world rugby chief Bernard Lapasset, who said, “at the moment one has the Six Nations, which is successful, and the Four Nations, which is less so”.
While I always loved the TRC there is no denying that it does not come close to matching the passion of the Six Nations, which fills bars around the world.
So let’s look back over the past few years of the Tri-Nations and TRC and examine the range of different items, including the format and teams involved.
1996-05: Double round robin – average crowd, 50,509 (2015)
2006: Triple round robin – average crowd, 45,211
2007: Double round robin – average crowd, 51,833
2008-10: Triple round robin – average crowd, 49,412 (2008); 44,344 (2009); 49,111 (2010)
2011: Double round robin – average crowd, 46,497
2012-14: Double round robin – average crowd, 40,676 (2012), 35,882 (2014)
I thought that the triple round robin was a drawn out and overplayed card, much like when the Wallabies and All Blacks where playing four-Test Bledisloe Cups. Though their average crowd figures for those tournaments from my less than scientific research appear to still be quite strong.
Now we all know the reason why the average crowds have dropped off in the last three years and that is because of Argentina. But their presence has also affected the crowd and general interest for the big three in their home games. A case in point is the 24,000 that showed up in Perth last year for a Springbok game that only a few years before was always close to a sellout.
To get back to the point of Lapasset, less is more. As with the double round robin of the Tri Nation, where each team played two home games and two away games and every game played was crucial to who would win the tournament, let’s take a note out of the Europeans’ book and make the TRC a single round tournament.
What’s that I hear you say? The ARU is broke? And Australia would only get one home game every two years? Well the answer is simple, on the back of the All Blacks’ Test in Samoa the fifth team to enter the tournament would be the Pacific Islands team. Each Pacific Island nation could share the hosting duties, putting some much needed money back into their coffers.
And if every thing is about money and ticket sales I dare say the Wallabies playing a Pacific Island team on the Gold Coast would get a better crowd than the 14,281 when the Wallabies played Los Pumas in 2014.
Five teams, two home games, two away, and every game matters.
Still not enough money for the ARU? Well we can play the All Blacks twice in the Bledisloe Cup, maybe even a third game that we can sell to Japan or the USA while we are at it. That would mean a minimum of three home games every second year for the ARU.
That’s how we fix the TRC (if you think it is broken). With a single round robin, plus a Pacific Island game, everyone is happy!
What do you think, Roarers?