Saturday, 9 November 2013
The Rugby Road - a way ahead
So what of rugby in the southern hemisphere and Pacific Rim/Asia. Well let's go back to the early nineties when one erstwhile IRB president proclaimed that they, the IRB, would grow the game financially in the Pacific zones and Asia. Not a lot happened and if anything things have gone backwards. Sure the Pacific Cup is now being played between PI countries, Japan and Canada and USA. But is this enough? Is this mediocrity spawning mediocrity? And what of motives of upper echelon rugby countries and touring? Very little top tier teams play in the Pacific (Scotland the exception) and there are very little games played by PI countries in Top Tier countries, especially in and against New Zealand, Australia, and SA. I found this article that outlines how the IRB have aided PI countries recently. At first $7million sounds like a good investment, but then you split that three ways then you see a massive discrepancy. How is this helping to retain senior players when league or Heineken Cup can offer them bigger paychecks. Sure the infrastructure is important, but player drain is much more important. And how often has it been raised about the number of PI players in SupeRugby who then represent their adopted country, and for two reasons - 1) the money and 2) the level of rugby. Loyalty to birthright gone.
But we know all this anyway. What you don't know is how things can be improved, well the way I see how things can be improved. To do this you have to understand a few things.
1. The SupeRugby format is flawed
2. The International Window needs to be extend by two weeks
3. The Rugby Championship does nothing to improve rugby globally.
a. Do away with Conference format
b. Do away with Finals
c. All teams play each other once.
d. SA another team (6), keep 5 Aus teams, add a new NZ franchise
a. The Conference format is a joke and coupled with b. The Finals makes the goal for teams to finish in the top six, not win the competition.
c. Good bye Home/Away derbies and welcome "competition". Every game counts.
d. 17 teams means 16 games a season starting mid February and finishing Mid June.
e. I have no issues with another SA team, but if they can have one then Taranaki's Bid to have a sixth SupeRugby franchise needs revisiting.
2. The international window of three weekends means three tests and three provincial matches. Follows immediately on the end of SupeRugby season and finishes before ITM Cup /Quad Nations.
3. The Rubgy Championship. Now here is where I seek wholesale changes. I want this competition expanded to six teams much like the NH Six Nations Comp. Ok I hear those that moan the loudest, too much rugby. Bear with me. The guaranteed teams are SA, NZ and Aus. But harping back to IRB's assertion we need to grow the game here is my proposal.
1. The make up of the Six Nations SH (The Rugby Championship) is Aus, NZ, SA, South America Cup (SAC), Pacific Rim Asia Cup (PRAC) and PI Cup (PIC). SAC teams will play for their one spot during the SupeRugby Competiton, home and away. PRIC countries (Japan, Canada, USA, winner Asian Comp) also play off for their spot home/away during the SupeRugby comp. And finally PIC countries (Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands) play same time as well. The winning countries in each competition goes into The Rugby Championship round. So each year all countries outside Europe get an opportunity to excel in the game, and grow their game and fan base. And with that competition in place the IRB and wealthier rugby nations will help these teams grow the game. And it will also stop the player drain. It gives tangible reward for effort.
2. This Rugby Championship round would be five games each and it won't be about money. No top tier team has the right to say all their games will be held in their grounds. If the draw each year says Away game to Tokyo, or Suva or Los Angeles or Montevideo, then that's where the game is. Forget about making the rich richer, think about getting the poor less poor, money wise and rugby wise.
3. Too much rugby for senior players. Hmm. With a six nations tourney and five games, three will be against lower ranked opposition so a good time to do rest and rotation for those top tiers. A win win as they certainly should win those games but the bonus is young players given game time in a pressure situation.
4. As the competition is 5 games only (currently 4 anyway) and add two Bledisloe Cup matches to that then it shouldn't eat too much into local provincial competitions.
The key for this proposal is not to take away from the powerhouses of rugby so much but to give developing rugby nations and currently struggling ones, a chance to share the limelight, skill-wise and kudos-wise.