The Roar
The Roar


World Rugby is failing global rugby

Japan's success at the 2015 World Cup will have them humming for the first game of 2019. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP, File)
Roar Guru
2nd October, 2015
1301 Reads

Japan’s victory over South Africa gave World Rugby exactly the perception it wanted: that rugby is growing from strength-to-strength, and that tier two nations are advancing to the brink of the first rank.

The problem is of course, that this perception is illusory.

Let’s look at the other results so far: England 35-11 Fiji, Ireland 50-7 Canada, Wales 54-9 Uruguay, Australia 28-13 Fiji, France 38-11 Romania, New Zealand 58-11 Namibia, South Africa 46-6 Samoa, Australia 65-3 Uruguay, Scotland 39-16 USA, Ireland 44-10 Romania, France 41-18 Canada.

And after the freak result against South Africa, Japan were demolished by one of the weakest established teams, Scotland, 45-10.

These contests were grimly one-sided and tediously inevitable. That they weren’t thrashings is not significant: most of the minnows’ players are professional and so provide some kind of contest against often second XV established teams. Indeed, it could be said many of the minnow teams have gone backwards.

Several on show either beat established teams in previous tournaments or pushed them very close, and indeed it is the absence of the latter kind of to-the-wire match that sums up the nature of these contests. Depressingly comfortable victories for the big teams.

Why is this? How has global rugby failed to advance at all since professionalism?

Firstly, the professionalisation of minnow players gave an immediate and utterly superficial improvement to their national teams that allowed the IRB to claim advances had been made, when nothing apart from some regular training had been added. In recent World Cups some stronger performances due to professionalism have been claimed as evidence of expansion and growth, falsely.


Argentina may have joined the Rugby Championship, but the game has hardly grown there, and any improvement represents nothing more than the result of once amateurs plying a trade in professional Europe.

World Rugby, it would seem, have no meaningful strategy to expand the game whatsoever.

The occasional turnout of Canada for a whipping at the hands of Wales, or the four-yearly making up the numbers in World Cups, do not constitute growth.

Essentially, global rugby has got nowhere.

Into this picture the only bright spark comes in the shape of the Super Rugby expansion into Japan and Argentina. But why is Super Rugby doing World Rugby’s enterprising work?

World Rugby’s base-up ideas have failed. It has long been argued that a top-down model – such as that employed by Super Rugby – is a more effective method. World Rugby would have done far better to support the growth of Super Rugby around the globe than claiming a Canadian loss by less than 50 points is a step forward.

The new teams in Tokyo and Buenos Aires are the only advances made in global rugby this century.


Canada, Romania, Samoa, USA, Uruguay, Fiji, Georgia, Russia, Tonga, Namibia and the rest: for these, nothing has been done, and no plan lies in the future.

Nor for global rugby.