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The not so-World League

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Roar Pro
1st March, 2019
25
1097 Reads

Look at Twitter today and you’ll no doubt see various videos of pets making you laugh or somebody being politically outraged at a politician who has or hasn’t said something that they believe in. If you’re a rugby fan, you may have noticed the global anger at World Rugby and its project for a World League.

The initial concept was simple. The top 12 teams in the world rankings compete within multiple groups, culminating in finals to be played in the northern hemisphere in November.

I say simple when really it was just an example of complicating an already complex model. Group games would all be played in the southern hemisphere in June through July, with the likes of the UK, Ireland or France hosting semi-finals and finals in November; effectively giving the money making matches to the North.

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I was against the idea from the outset. Yes, the money would be shared among all teams evenly; but then why should Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England be effectively penalised for laying long term foundations and building dedicated national rugby stadia?

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Why should New Zealand or South Africa profit from not building suitable venues to generate sufficient income to not make the unions so reliant on funds from whichever TV company has the deepest pockets?

And how exactly were the Six Nations and Rugby Championship supposed to fit in to this new structure; with neither willing to budge from traditional times of the year? What about the World Cup?

At the time of writing, it has recently come out that the World League will include 12 teams (the Six Nations and Rugby Championship unions, along with Japan and USA).

As of 28th February 2019, the top 12 ranked countries are;
1. New Zealand
2. Ireland
3. Wales
4. England
5. South Africa
6. Australia
7. Scotland
8. France
9. Fiji
10. Argentina
11. Japan
12. Georgia

Two of the proposed teams are missing (USA and Italy), with Georgia and Fiji gatecrashing the party like a drunk ex at a wedding reception. The leaked proposal smacks of World Rugby taking the money in markets such as the US and Japan; neglecting its requirement to grow the game globally.

In addition to this, there would be no promotion or relegation from the World League for 12 years! How is a team outside of the top 12 supposed to climb up the rankings sufficiently in those 12 years without consistent matches against those ranked above them or without the funds that this league would supposedly generate?

Augustin Pichot comes across as a great guy. He’s affable, charismatic and comes from a traditional underdog nation in rugby terms. This league, for all intents and purposes, is his baby; but from the looks of it he’s forgotten about the baby’s mother, the food it needs, nappies and a cot.

There could be speculation that he is protecting Argentinian interests, with his country struggling in both Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship since their entry in to both competitions. I would prefer not to look at it that way and see that Pichot genuinely thinks that this will make rugby union more marketable internationally.

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The issues with the league are various beyond the lack of funds for those nations outside of the tournament.

Would it overshadow the need for a World Cup? What’s to stop all Pacific Island players leaving their countries to take up lucrative contracts abroad with the idea that one day they could play international rugby for those adopted countries? What about player welfare?

World Rugby are seeing so much positive organisation happening throughout the globe, why doesn’t it try backing those tournaments?

The NRC with the Drua has been great for Australian and Fijian rugby. Why not look at Tongan and Samoan teams entering that or New Zealand Mitre 10 Championship?

The USMLR is burgeoning and, with the Toronto Arrows entering this year, professional influence will have positive knock on effects in both the USA and Canada. World Rugby could invest in that and help establish strong infrastructures for clubs and governing bodies.

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A similar tournament is being mooted in South America incorporating teams from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Invest in that.

Establish similar tounraments in Asia (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea) and Africa (Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, etc). Correct the ridiculous politics involved in the Rugby Europe Championship that saw Spain, Romania and Belgium all caught up in eligibility issues.

There are so many ways for World Rugby to invest funds in a more efficient manner than than blowing its load on a Frankenstein’s Monster style tournament that neither the players nor the fans want to see.

Force Tier 1 nations to travel to Tier 2 nations on tours. Have New Zealand and Australia stop in the pacific islands on their way to Europe or prior to the Rugby Championship.

Have the Springboks play away games in Namibia or Kenya. Make England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland play Georgia, Romania, Germany and Belgium. Imagine the passion of French or Italian supporters shouting down Spanish or Portuguese fans in Spain or Portugal!

Wind you neck in World Rugby. You’re wrong this time. I don’t know if you’ve had too much to drink or have been eyeing up a girl that you’re never going to talk to; but you’re blind. Go home and reassess everything tomorrow.