Thursday, April 05, 2007

2011 RWC to claw back to 16…? Let’s hope.

March 9, 2007

Let's hope this report from the Dominion Post, via Rugby Heaven is accurate and gets some traction. I've been saying for years the RWC tournament needs to claw back to 16 teams. There are minnows in this years' RWC that will get hammered by cricket scores during the pool stages, and it's offensive to the sport as well as the audience that the tournament is trying to sell.

Minnows could be culled for 2011 Cup

by Jim Kayes
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The 2011 World Cup in New Zealand could be a case of back to the future, with 16 teams and a more streamlined qualifying process. The inaugural World Cup in New Zealand in 1987 featured 16 teams, which was increased to 20 for the 1999 tournament and remained that way in 2003 and for this year's tournament in France.

It is too many, with Romania, Georgia, Namibia and whoever qualifies between Portugal and Uruguay destined to be the victims of some whopping cricket scores.

IRB chairman Syd Millar confirmed on Tuesday that the number of teams for the 2011 World Cup would be reviewed, along with the protracted qualifying process.

This year's World Cup will have featured 92 teams after 86 went through a qualifying system that began when Andorra thrashed Norway in September 2004.

One spot remains open - in the All Blacks' pool - with Portugal to play Uruguay in Lisbon this weekend and again in Montevideo on March 24.

Millar said qualifying for the 2011 tournament would be more streamlined, with regional tournaments an option. That would allow the seedings to be done closer to the tournament, making them more accurate.

The seedings for this year's World Cup are based on where teams finished in Australia four years ago, leaving Argentina, who are now sixth in the world, in a pool of death with France and Ireland.

"We are looking at what we might do for 2011, how teams might qualify and we will look at the numbers (of teams in the tournament)," Millar said before the IRB executive met in Auckland yesterday. "We've got to review the World Cup, and see where were going and how we can make the World Cup better."

An English initiative has previously suggested two World Cups run side by side for top-tier nations and the next level, though Miller said that was impractical because amateur players would not get sufficient time off work. Though he would not say how many teams could feature in 2011, the only option outside the status quo was to reduce the number of teams to 16.

"We won't be increasing the numbers at all, but the format will be different for qualification because we had 86 teams this time.

"It's a huge advantage for those teams to say they played in the World Cup (albeit only in the qualifying stages). That gives them status, but we may have to have them qualify in a different way."

Millar also confirmed that the executive committee would discuss nine options for an integrated season that allows for tidier windows for test matches, but he conceded it was very much a work in progress.

While there was general agreement that competitions had to shift to allow each country to have access to their best players, persuading unions to move their competitions was easier said than done.

"We have nine options and that sounds ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is we've been working on this for some time and everybody has an opinion," Millar said.

"Everybody wants an integrated season, but then when you ask them to shift their season there are reasons for them not doing it."

He hoped yesterday's meeting would be able to whittle the nine options down to two or three, and admitted it was likely that whatever was settled on would see fewer tests played.

"We can't squeeze the season in the way were doing. There's just not the time in the season to play all the matches."



At 6:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dumbest idea since the IRB gave hosting rights to New Zealand instead of Japan for the 2011 World Cup.

Developing rugby countries see this as part of the worlds power countries to help themselves. They firstly pay the top 8 countries with multi million dollar payouts while developing countries with World Cup success such as Uruguay don't see a cent. They secondly deny developing the game in favor of having the tournament in an estalbished giant who has, for God's sake, already hosted one World Cup and messed up hosting a second. Now they want to kick out four participants.

Like thats going to fix the problem of one sided matches! If the problem is to be resolved then the IRB need to pump money into emerging vountries. Assit them by funding infrastructure, promoting professionalism, enabling leading players valuable experience in top competitions (Top 14, Guinness Premiership, Super 14, etc), having real fixtures with every potential World Cup participant playing a minimum of 7 test per year (Uruguay played zero aside from World Cup qualifiers in 2006- and 2007).

Above all, if thsi ridiculous proposal is to be taken seriously then lets quickly review the results in question. Lets take Georgia who lost all 4 matches in the 2003 World Cup. England defeated them by 80 point and South Africa by 30. If we are to be serious them what do we do about South Afica who Australia defeated by some 45 points last year?

Or Romania? Australia defeated them 90-8 and Ireland did 45-17. Anyone who watched the game agaisnt Ireland knows the game was not one sided. It was good for the majority of the match and certainly a lot better than France vs Ireland which had Fracne winning by almost 40 points until near the end of the match. Not a very good display for a Quarter Final now is it?

Some other 2003 World Cup results...

France 51–9 Scotland!
New Zealand 70–7 Italy!
South Africa 60–10 Samoa!

Compared to:

Wales 27–20 Tonga (Tonga scored more tries)

For Goodness sake Wales then went on to almost beat New Zealand! Tonga went on to lose to Canada.

Georgia gave South Africa a better match than Samoa did, yet Samoa gave England a better match than South Africa did.

The USA would be another team to miss the cut if we had only 16 teams yet they were very unlucky to lose 19–18 to Fiji. Japan would also miss out. Both the USA and Japan did better against France than Fiji and Scotland did!

Kicking out 4 teams would mean Tonga go but Italy and Scotland stay. I'm sure any logical person can see the failings in achieving the objective of lowering ass kickings at World Cup's.

Jeez whiz kicking out 4 teams is really going to change everythinng isn't it? This is the dumbest idea I've heard from the IRB since the IRB awarded NZ 2011 hosting rights instead of giving it to the best bidder, Japan.

At 9:08 AM , Blogger the red terror said...

Thanks for the comment. You obviously seem pretty angry, so this could be an exercise like talking a cat down from a tree. I think a lot of your agitation may be connected to your loopy premises.

Firstly, anybody that followed the 2011 RWC vote knows what you say simply is not true.

In the NZ vs. Japan sweepstakes, one nation made the tournament a national priority; the other did not. One nation stepped forward and used the government as a guarantor; the other did not (and instead gave vague assurances that a sell-out to corporations would pick up the slack). One nation, with more than a century of rich rugby history and tradition, understood that the bid process was exactly that ~ a "process" where they had to prepare a "tender" with t's crossed and i's dotted; the other nation had comparatively dick-all rugby tradition and history, had never even hosted a test series tour, and yet behaved as an aggrieved orphan waif child that deserved the RWC as a sympathetic hand-me-down birthright, didn't prepare a thorough bid presentation, and then pouted and acted like a petulant victim. One nation sent a Prime Minister; the other nations' PM didn't even have a clue about what was happening.

How you can find out of all that a "dumb idea" for giving the hosting rights to the best bidder, is simply laughable, no matter how many times you say it with a straight face.

Secondly, NZ has never been a sole host, let alone messed up a second one. It is true that NZ was a co-host on the first tournament ~ when most of the rest of the playing nations cynically predicted the endeavour would be a colossal failure and money-loser. (Everything old is indeed new again; that is to say, we'll always have cynics, pessimists ~ and hypocrites. (Curious, RWC matches this year will be held in Scotland, the third RWC tournament Scotland has participated as a host since NZ last hosted 20 years ago. Funny how we don't hear much gnashing of teeth about that imbalance.))

As far as clawing back the RWC from 20 teams to 16 teams, it's a solid idea. Understand, rugby is still a small international sport compared to soccer, and soccer doesn't have a FINALS tournament that invites everybody. Teams have to qualify. That's the entire point the tournament is the World Cup FINALS ~ which is to say, every nation is eligible for the World Cup, and most every nation participates. But they do so at the PRELIMINARY QUALIFYING STAGES. Bottomline: if you aren't good enough to qualify for the Finals, then your World Cup experience ends at the Qualifiers.

As far as getting rid of four teams in this years' RWC that could hit the cutting-room floor, you cite some good anecdotal "almost, could have, if only" scenarios, but instead of focusing on the pools (which are imbalanced because of the top-heavy imbalance of world rugby), you should instead focus on the teams. The IRB could excise Romania, Portugal, Georgia and Namibia from the RWC and few-if-anybody would lose sleep over their omission. Sure, we might collectively yawn a little, but rugby fans wouldn't lose sleep over their omission any more than ice hockey fans would if they heard, say, Azerbaijan or the Philipines failed to make the World Cup of Ice Hockey. Those teams have no chance to make the QFs, let alone win the thing.

I am sure you could probably contest competitive matches between those teams, or, say, the Ivory Coast vs. Sri Lanka at the Ice Hockey WC. But that does not mean ice hockey fans will like it, or pay good money to travel to a host nation with little background in the sport (say, Korea) to watch them play it.

Sure, it'd be nice if the IRB had all sorts of huge money bags that they "pump it into emerguing nations." But the reality is that the IRB doesn't have huge bags of money, they have a very tiny bag, some of which they are trying to share with smaller nations. They could probably do a better job of it, but let's not forget that money is generated by the nations that have most of the board votes, and the IRB simply doesn't have the kind of money you are talking about.

Think about it sensibly: You yourself refer to New Zealand as, quote, "an estalbished giant, for God's sake." And what, pray tell, is the entire population of that " established giant"? Maybe 4 million. The only way an isolated nation with a puny population could ever reasonably be called an "established giant" on the playing field of anything is for that "anything" to be small-fry.

Accept the obvious ~ rugby simply is not a huge global sport. We wish it were so, but wishing so does not make it so. Who are we kidding? The only other nations in the world where rugby is the national sport are Wales, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and the *combined* population of those nations probably isn't much higher than NZ's.

If soccer can have a successful cyclical tournament with an on-going qualifying period and then a finals featuring maybe 1/8th of all the nations where soccer is a national sport, then rugby can claw it's tournament back to 16 teams easily. Very, very easily.

Thanks for your comment.


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