Monday 14 October 2019

Short turnarounds killing minnows

Japan coach Eddie Jones
Japan coach Eddie Jones
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

It's early days yet, but signs are of a narrowing gap between rugby's 'haves' and 'have nots'.

To date no 'minnow' has been beaten out the gate as in times past.

I was in the Adelaide Oval in 2003 when Australia beat Namibia 142-0 It was cringe-inducing stuff.

Twelve years and three tournaments on, professionalism is kicking in.

World Rugby is at pains to point out the investment in grassroots rugby in the developing nations. They are right to do so.

There is, however, a flip-side to that coin and in the opening week it has been the minnows - Japan, Fiji and Romania, as well as Fiji - paying the price, by playing two games with an unworkably short turnaround.

The Fijians came to this tournament with perhaps the best-organised squad they have ever had, but having to play England and Australia just five days apart was grossly unfair.

They lost both, and they were effectively out of the tournament before some other nations had even played.

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The 'reward' for Eddie Jones and his heroes for their extraordinary display against the Springboks was a tilt at the Scots just four days on in the latter's opening match.

And tomorrow the Romanians front up to Ireland, having just emptied their tanks in staying the pace with the French in midweek.

The established nations, with the deepest squads, are best equipped to handle the four and five-day turnaround, yet it is the minor countries, those here to make up the numbers, who are being asked to do it.

It is wrong, and World Rugby knows it.

If they are genuine in their desire to make the World Cup a truly global event, an imbalanced fixture list is hardly the way to go about it.

Level playing field? I think not.

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