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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Rugby World Cup's Future

Rugby Union ‘sells’ its World Cup on the headline that it is the 3rd biggest sporting event on the calendar.  The Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and then the Rugby World Cup - so the story goes....
I am still not sold on this myself - even though my allegiances lie with the Rugby field - it just does not seem to do the game justice, nor drive the game forward.  Now I know that the game has hurtled forward at a rate of knots since professionalism - so it appears as though I am talking from the bottom of a huge maul (unsighted and struggling to see teh bigger picture) - but it is not an event that I can get excited about.
Think about it...

It's an event that does not tell many stories....  It rumbles on for weeks and weeks - with little to get excited about unless your team is still in it.  How many stand out games have there been in the whole competition.  My current sport guru tipping % is close to 90% - that’s right 9/10 games are easy to predict - and this with me - as someone who likes to roll the dice a bit on tipping to try to stay ahead of the game (I never do!).  Uncertainty is what you want for any sporting event and teh RWC is anything but.  
Fair enough when the quarter finals start - the global heavyweights can throw up some ‘less predicted’ results - but as we have seen these are very little to do with outstanding play.  England lost because they were awful, South Africa lost because the ref was awful, New Zealand won because they were always going to.  OK - so Wales won and picked up plaudits in the process - but they lost 2 of their 3 biggest games in the tournament - so can not really pick them as the saviors of the World cup.
New Zealand - everyone’s favorites - will likely romp away with the trophy this weekend - depriving us of the only real story every 4 years - who will the All Blacks lose to despite having dominated the sport for the 4 years prior to the RWC.
Rugby is a phenomenally passionate sport - one that connects with its supporters almost like no other in the world.  It is certainly one that I will sit down in front of any enjoy more than most - but this is because of the cultural attachment I have to the game rather than any real excitement I get form the sport.
As rugby’s fans age, and a new breed comes on board - cultural attachments only last so long (a lifetime in fact) - so Rugby needs to start doing more to safeguard it’s future.
Having been in the States for a few months - I have been watching sports alien to me - Baseball, Football (American version) - and these are games that have had more time to realize that you need to hold attention with more than just the ‘love of the game’.  Both sports are ones that are misunderstood outside of the US - but as their aspirations move globally (as all sports are having to do) - have no fear that in years to come there will be more and more events prepared to challenge Rugby as the 3rd largest event on the planet.  Not even considering for now that quite possibly the RWC is already challenged by the Major League Baseball playoffs (they last about as long) as world events - I dare say that more $$$ generated by those than the RWC.
in honor of my bro-in-law
Rugby needs to recognize the need to modernize, to excite and take steps to improve as a spectacle.  The leaders at the top of the sport needs to sort themselves out (a mess all round the world seems to be the current trend) - and get busy to safe guard the games long term future.
In the meantime - good luck to both teams for the weekend’s game.  Stay away from any Kiwis you know if France somehow pull off the win.

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