Monday, June 23, 2008

A class apart

Bad week for Her Majesty! New Zealand won the inaugural World Junior Championship with a ruthless 38-3 smashing and pulverization of a thoroughly undisciplined England in yesterdays' final at Swansea in Wales. Rugby Planet match report, click here. The Kiwi youngsters were clearly head & shoulders above every other team in the tournament.

After hearing Kiwi worrywarts complain for several months about top professional players leaving New Zealand for fatter paycheques in the northern hemisphere, it was amusing to hear the British TV match commentators griping about the state of rugby development in the U.K. They reckon the current influx of Kiwi rugby players to the north is a double-whammy, firstly by harming the development of young English rugby players and future stars, who are wasted languishing on their teams' benches, while Kiwi imports get regular starts in important Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership matches; and secondly, the Kiwi rugby exports leave vacant positions back home for young Kiwis to slot into, thereby giving them an edge in actual game experience at elite levels of Super 14 and NPC. It's an interesting theory. NZ teams, it appears, don't re-build so much as they re-load.

I thought the entire World Junior Championship tournament was fantastic, and expect to see it grow in popularity in leaps & bounds over the next decade, much like the World Junior Ice Hockey championships. I also like the idea that it's an annual event, and that Japan gets the next tournament. These are the sorts of tournaments that "new" rugby nations need to host before we gift them RWCs.

And how good was it to see the trophy lifted by skipper Chris Smith (pictured above), from my old Takapuna club. Good on yer, mate!


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