Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rugby World Cup thoughts

Mum and Dad have Sky so I've watched a few games since Saturday, and to my slight surprise I've enjoyed at least some of what I've seen. I'm pretty clueless about rugby - it seems a very unnatural game to me - but I've got some idea about formats and scheduling of competitions, and in that regard the World Cup could do better.

1. One of the Samoan blokes (the coach?) said the schedule discriminates against the less-fancied teams, and he's dead right. It's particularly tough on the better less-fancied teams like Samoa who have a realistic chance of progressing to the knockout stages. The best sides play all their games at the weekends, giving them nice seven-day intervals between matches, while the weaker teams face four-day turnarounds. They should follow their football World Cup where they play two games from Pool A, then two from B, then two from C...
Admittedly five-team pools make matters more complicated (one team will have to finish their pool games before the other four) but the current schedule, which heavily favours the best teams, could be vastly improved upon.

2. Why did they make the draw years in advance of the tournament? So much can change in two years; good teams can become average and vice-versa. For instance Argentina, who were ranked fourth when the draw was made, are now (I think) ninth! In the interest of fairness (to avoid a big imbalance in the strength of the pools) they should again take a leaf out of football's book and do the draw eight months or so prior to the competition.

3. Yes I know Christchurch had a series of catastrophic earthquakes that meant they couldn't play there, but shutting the whole of the South Island out of the knockout stages of the World Cup is, in my opinion, shocking. They spent serious money on the stadium in Dunedin, which has so far been a big success, so why aren't they playing one of the quarter-finals down there? OK its capacity is "only" 40,000 but for just one quarter-final I don't see that being a problem.

4. Once again there have been too many blowouts. I'm not a big enough rugby fan to appreciate all the amazing play involved when South Africa thrash Namibia. Cutting the number of teams to sixteen could help (and would certainly help some of the scheduling issues) but a better solution would be for the "lesser" sides to become more competitive by playing more matches at an international level.

For all that, the World Cup has clearly been a big success so far, and any criticism or advice that I offer should come with a big "I don't really understand rugby" disclaimer.

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