World Rugby: An Offbeat Opinion

Opinion: Au revoir Arsene! Who do the Gunners turn to next!?

Having decided to take a temporary break from Varsity life, I made the short trip to Bushman’s River from Grahamstown a few weeks ago to visit my ageing Oupa. Inevitably, our conversations over the years have always seemed to drift back to rugby and more specifically, the greatest teams, and players, ever to have graced the game.

When the topic of the (then) upcoming England Test series came up, Oupa sighed with resignation.
“It’s just a pity about the tours these days, my Sunny Boy,” he remarked. “In the amateur days, sides would tour South Africa for months on end. You never get to see teams truly gel anymore.”

This got me wondering. What if, for a brief period of a few years, World Rugby reinstated month-long tours – similar to those already in effect on the International cricketing circuit.

Naturally, such seismic change is unlikely to happen, but if you would humour me for but a few hundred words, you may find that the idea does present a range of intriguing possibilities.

Consider the working model of FIFA. International teams play in tournaments every two years – either at the World Cup or at Continental Championships such as the European Championships or Copa America. They look to build for each of these once-off tournaments (each respective Championship comes every four years) and, naturally, peak on their arrival.

However, unlike FIFA, who dictates that teams play International “friendlies” and qualification matches during every two-year period between tournaments, World Rugby could arrange International tours similar to those of yesteryear. Touring teams would be allowed to play midweek matches against local provincial or club sides as a means of prepping for the Test series to follow.

Could you imagine Leinster coming up against the All Blacks? The Wallabies battling it out with Saracens? The Springboks tearing into Toulon?

Or, conversely, the Sharks playing England, Wales tackling the Crusaders, the Waratahs going up against Ireland?

Midweek matches would allow for coaches to decide on their strongest possible combinations and pick their most formidable starting XV’s.

In the modern era, International coaches have next to no time to prepare their teams for actual Test matches. Playing multiple games with a squad over a prolonged period would give coaches an opportunity to settle on a winning formula in anticipation of the World Cup.

According to my grandfather, the truly great touring teams played together at least six times. Today, June Test series are comprised of just three matches in total.
Pitting International sides against provinces/ clubs would also be a cunning way to encourage local support and put an end to dwindling crowd figures, particularly in the southern hemisphere. The Sharks against the Sunwolves at Kings Park is one thing, but a Sharks vs All Black clash is another altogether.

And, if SANZAAR and the like insist on International tournaments such as the Rugby Championship, perhaps these could be staged every two years. Again, this would be based off the FIFA model and would serve to boost the competitiveness and prestige of these competitions.

As outlandish and implausible a proposition as this may be, it remains an interesting one. FIFA may fall way short in the race for the “World’s Most Ethical Sporting Entity” award, but their organisation is second to none. World Rugby could take note.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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