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Agustin Pichot: Villain or visionary?

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Expert
10th March, 2019
14

The two most senior decision-makers in World Rugby are Sir William Beaumont and Agustin Pichot.

Sir William, better known as Bill, is a 67-year-old who earned 34 caps for England from 1975 to 1982, leading them to a Grand Slam in 1980, and captaining the British and Irish Lions to South Africa in the same year.

Bill Beaumont is a softly-spoken, even-keeled administrator who is chairman of World Rugby, crossing his Ts and dotting his Is.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and vice-chairman Agustin Pichot

Bill Beaumont (left) and Agustin Pichot (right) are the two most powerful men in World Rugby. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Agustin Pichot is very different.

At 44, he’s a former yappy halfback who captained the Pumas during his 71-cap career, he’s deputy chairman of World Rugby, and is showing signs of being power hungry.

It’s Pichot who has come up with the revolutionary World League, or World League of Nations – that’s his first major blunder.

Among all the words in the English language, why pick ‘league’, which is as far removed from rugby as is humanly possible, giving the distinct impression it’s a rugby league concept.

Villain.

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Then for Pichot to say this new concept of dividing rugby nations into groups in an annual tournament won’t impact on the Rugby World Cup is delusional.

Of course it will, and big time.

Villain.

Let’s say Pichot’s concept is called the Nations Trophy, and for three years there’s an annual winner, with promotion and relegation within the divisions, but in the fourth year there’s a Rugby World Cup champion.

Bloody stupid.

Having knocked the concept, there are certain built-in pluses that could rectify bad decisions made earlier.

For example, Europe Division One has been pencilled in as the current Six Nations which means Italy is automatically linked with England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and France – and they don’t deserve to be there. The Azzurri is an embarrassment.

Fact: Italy has finished with the wooden spoon in 13 of the 20 Six Nations tournaments, and this year it will be 14 of 21.

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Italy has won just 12 of 97 games, scoring 1401 points, giving up 3229, for a deficit of 1828.

If Pichot’s concept sees the light of day, Italy would be demoted after year one, never to return.

And that’s exactly what they deserve.

Japan has been included in the Rest of the World Division One with the All Blacks, Wallabies, Pumas, Boks, and Fiji – and Japan doesn’t deserve to be there either with Tonga and Samoa relegated to Division Two.

How Japan is ranked 11th in the world ahead of Georgia, Tonga, USA, Uruguay, Samoa, and Russia makes a mockery out of the rankings.

Japan’s best results are winning 15 of 25 against Canada, 24 of 28 against Kong Kong, and 29 of 36 over South Korea – hardly stop-the-press information.

The moment Japan defeated the Springboks

Japan celebrate beating South Africa at the 2015 World Cup (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP, File)

Like Italy in the Europe Division One, Japan is out of their depth in the Rest of the World Division One and will be relegated after year one, never to return.

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Let’s face it, there are 105 countries ranked in the world, with at least 95 of them will never ever contend for the Rugby World Cup, and most of them will never qualify anyway.

So anything Pichot tries to do will only benefit 20-plus countries, so why not make his Nations Trophy two divisions from Europe of eight teams – not six – and the same for the Rest of the World.

That would make 15 internationals annually for all those involved, and make it more meaningful.

Europe Division One should contain England, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Scotland and Wales, while Rest of the World Division One is made up of Argentina, Australia, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Tonga and the USA.

The European second tier should include Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Ukraine, then in the Rest of the World Division Two, there’s Hong Kong, Kenya, Namibia, Samoa, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

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The next few weeks will be intriguing to see which way Agustin Pichot moves.

And it will also be interesting to see if SANZAAR drops Argentina from the Rugby Championship, and seeing SANZAAR has made such an unholy mess of Super Rugby, drop both the Sunwolves and Jaguares and revert to five teams from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

We can only hope sanity returns.