Sport Rugby

Thursday 28 August 2014

Eamonn Sweeney: We're clowns in World Cup circus

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 09/12/2012 | 05:00

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In the immortal words of Mary McAleese and Kate Bush, WOW. Did you ever see anything as exciting as that 2015 Rugby World Cup draw? RTE certainly struck the right note with their breathless live coverage. It's World Cup fever time again.

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We now have three years to ponder the crucial question of whether Ireland will win their key game against Italy and progress past the group stages. Three years of listening to commentators viewing every game Ireland play through the prism of the World Cup. Three years of build-up followed by the usual let-down.

Okay, the Rugby World Cup gives me a pain in the butt. Not the tournament itself, the tournament itself is grand even if it's too long, filled with meaningless matches and terrible teams.

But why, for one thing, do they have the draw three years before the tournament? Especially when that draw is based on world rankings which might well be out of date. All the hype and bluster here hasn't produced as much as a semi-final place for Ireland, and 2015 is unlikely to be any different.

The problem with the Rugby World Cup is that it's basically the All-Ireland hurling championship. Only a handful of teams have any chance at all of winning it and Ireland isn't one of them. We're Offaly, and not 1990s Offaly with Brian Whelahan et al, Offaly now. A further problem is that it's the All-Ireland hurling championship with Louth, Longford, Donegal and Cavan included. At every tournament we're told by its flacks that the presence of the minnows shows the global reach of the game when in reality it merely confirms that this World Cup is a World Cup only in name.

Yet why be negative? I can't wait to see which teams will come through the qualification process to make up the numbers in Ireland's group. Will it be Romania, Namibia, Canada, Ruritania, Quadrophenia, Beatlemania?

The weaknesses of the tournament wouldn't matter were it not for the media obsession with the damn thing. For at least two years prior to the last one every Irish performance seemed to be discussed with relation to the World Cup. If we won, pundits went on about us having to go to the next level for the World Cup. When we lost, defeat was conveniently subsumed under talk of how the important thing was to build for the World Cup. Going forward.

In reality, the World Cup should be just another set of matches for Ireland, not some holy grail we pursue while ignoring the lessons of the competition which really matters, the Six Nations. We do sometimes have a chance of winning that one.

Sunday Indo Sport

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