Monday 18 December 2017

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Rugby sells itself without the hype

It would appear that sports editor John Greene has a bee in his bonnet regarding the increasing popularity of rugby union and its onward march as one of the globe's premier sports ('A triumph of hype and good marketing', April 10).

There is certainly a degree of smart marketing involved, but unlike soccer and GAA, rugby union doesn't really need hyping. The modern professional game sells itself to an ever expanding audience because of its mass appeal.

And one of the most appealing aspects of rugby union is the high level of respect for refereeing decisions, be they right or wrong. Foul-mouthed, in-your-face disrespect is not tolerated, at any level.

Even that cradle of Gaelic games, the province of Munster, has become a global metaphor for a brand of rugby that is revered and respected throughout the world. We should celebrate the fact that Irish rugby has contributed so much to the appeal of the game internationally.

Niall Ginty

Soccer's top table equally minuscule

John Greene wrote "rugby's top table remains the exclusive preserve of the few".

The soccer World Cup has been held on 19 occasions since 1930. So far eight different countries have won the tournament (average 2.37 Cups each). The higher the number the more exclusive.

Twelve countries have played in a final (38 places in the final divided by 12 countries equals 3.16). The higher the number the more exclusive. Excluding WWII, it's 74 years between Uruguay 1930 and South Africa 2010.

Therefore, the eight winners have held the Cup for an average of 9.25 years per win. Again the higher the number the more exclusive. The host nation has won six times (32%).

The Rugby World Cup has been held on six occasions since 1987. Four countries have won the tournament (average 1.5 Cups each).

Five countries have played in a final (12 potential places in the final divided by five countries equals 2.4).

In the 20 years between New Zealand 1987 and France 2007 the four winners have held the cup for an average of five years per win. The host nation has won twice (33%).

Rugby is an intensely, physically violent sport and, as John Greene says, only five countries have a realistic chance of winning a World Cup.

On the other hand soccer is a game of skill and touch and therefore it appears that more countries have an opportunity to win. The statistics don't appear to back this up.

Hugh Mullen

McIlroy can follow Nicklaus' example

Rory McIlroy is only 21 and came very close to winning the prestigious US Masters four-day event at Augusta, Georgia last week. He played fantastic golf for the first three days and was beset understandably by nerves on the final day.

The occasion probably got to him, as it is the premier event in world golf and used to be very elitist, until Tiger Woods was the first African-American to win it in 1997 and the Augusta club was forced to change its ways.

Doing so well at this event will enable Rory to earn more millions -- but importantly has increased the respect he has among his fellow golfers. He was also appointed Irish ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, an honour he shares with New York-based Irish actor, Liam Neeson.

Time is on his side. His role model could be the great Jack Nicklaus whose win at the age of 46 in the 1986 US Masters is still spoken of. Because no-one gave him much of a chance. They felt he had his day, as he hadn't won much in the few years beforehand. He got the better of the back nine and the critics on that final day. Mind you, it was his sixth US Masters win. And his record, still to be beaten, stands at 18 Major wins. What happened at Augusta will be a learning experience for Rory at how to dig down deep under pressure. It is rarely won easily.

Mary Sullivan

Media ignoring harsh underbelly

What has to be the most nauseating aspect of the UK sports media's avoidance of the malaise in their game is BBC's Match of the Day -- with their sanitised and staged 'discussions', the presenter and guests adopting serious demeanours but little else when continually confronted with evidence of English footballing underbelly (not just Wayne Rooney).

Rooney doesn't know any different -- Ferguson does. Definitely knighthood material alright.

Pádraig Jennings

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