22 Mar 2007

Forwards Not Backwards

The 2007 rugby World Cup hasn't even had it's first game yet and already there is talk of going back to the 16 team tournament of years past. Syd Millar of the IRB has suggested that New Zealand 2011 might be the first world cup since 1995 with sixteen teams.

Apologists for this view suggest that this will avoid "lopsided scorelines which benefit neither the winners....nor the losers".

Sorry to burst your bubble but the idea of going back a step is just ludicrous. And frankly, who cares if this is a "more realistic recognition of the true depth of the global game".

Surely the whole point of a rugby union world cup is that the world - regardless of their abilities - can potentially take part. The game will never grow and other countries will never get interested in the sport if they are excluded simply because they aren't yet any good.

Take a comparison with football. It was not more than 15 or so years ago that the big teams would wallop the likes of South Korea or some small East European country 6-0 or 7-0 but, thanks in large part to events like the world cup, this is no longer the case.

If you want an argument for including 20 - perhaps even more teams - in the RWC, then look at the improvement Italy have made as a rugby playing nation since the inauguration of the Six Nations.

To go back to 16 teams in New Zealand 2011 is a backwards step any genuine rugby lover should be 100% against.

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