Is the RWC just too damn long?

2007-09-26 13:51

Tank Lanning

So we are well into the third week of RWC 2007, and yet we still have more than three weeks to go! Bringing back memories of the Cricket World Cup for anyone?

Now, I am a rugby nut, so for me to be having a go at the length of the tournament catches even myself off-guard! And, ironically, were it not for the crazy seeding system that the IRB use for the RWC, and thus the make up of Pool D, the first three weeks of this tournament would be one giant snore!

Sure, Tonga have an outside chance of unsettling the Poms, as do the Italians with regard to the Scots, but reality suggests that even those will be inconsequential given that it will in all likelihood be the top teams in each pool fighting it out in the semis in over two weeks time.

So should we even have a World Cup? Why not just take the top four ranked sides in the world and have a one week rugby extravaganza?

Now that would be ridiculous, and of course we need a Rugby World Cup, but how do the IRB make it a real WORLD Cup consisting of sides that can actually contest an 80-minute fixture?

A sure indication that we have a problem comes when the Scots are able to play a second string side against New Zealand at Murrayfield, where spectators are paying 168 pounds for the best seat in the house, and the (northern hemisphere) commentators get to say after the game that they have "not disgraced themselves" after going down by 40 points!

And do we really need games such as the one in which the Portuguese were given over a hundred points by the world champions elect? "How else do we grow the game?" I hear the IRB saying. And they have a point...

Based on performance

Well what about making it a 16 (instead of 20) team tournament, based on an extended IRB world ranking list? In the four years between tournaments, countries compete to be in that new IRB top 20 list, and then the only qualification that happens in the build up to a tournament is that positions 13 to 16 play against positions 17 to 20 (in reverse order) to see which are the final four sides that will contest the RWC.

That way we remove the ridiculous current seeding system that is based on performance at the previous World Cup, and we have a four year period where teams can compete to be in the IRB's top 20, yet we do not lose that excitement that is built by having some sort of pre-RWC qualification tournament.

Based on the above, the top sides in each pool, using the IRB ranking list as per the week before the tournament, would have been:

Pool A - New Zealand, Wales
Pool B - Australia, England
Pool C - South Africa, Ireland, Scotland
Pool D - France, Argentina, Italy

This is based on the top seeded side playing the 8th seed and not the 5th seed, which to my mind, would be fair, as the top seeded side would have earned the easier ride to the quarters.

So you are still going to get two groups with top 10 ranked sides in them, but it's in the shorter tournament and more consistent competition between World Cups, which might see less of the touring with second string sides that is starting to creep into the game, that will benefit us, the rugby watching public.

  • Tank is Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

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