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Thursday, December 22, 2005


Other Unions/ Teams: Pumas in Spain spells seventh heaven in Europe

By: Eddie Butler
Source: The Observer

A final word, I promise, on the subject of New Zealand's sweep of the Pacific Ocean to keep her All Black rugby stocks brimful. And then, good cheer all round.

It was pointed out to me last week by no less an authority than Syd Millar, chairman of the International Rugby Board, that there is no point banging on about injustice for the islanders when they themselves do not seem to be harbouring many grievances on the matter. True, it's not as if the rugby players of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji are being taken down to NZ forcibly

Syd, none the less once as concerned as anyone on the Atlantic side of the globe about the improvement of one country's lot at the expense of several others', had raised the issue, only to be told at prime-ministerial level that the monies sent back by émigré players amounted to a not entirely insignificant ingredient in the islands' economic cakes.
So, that, it appears, is that. It is not a question of Kiwi piracy, but honourable redistribution of the Kiwi dollar. And the chances of anyone currently lying outside the traditional top eight making it into the quarter-finals of a World Cup recede further.

The only hope, dare it be countenanced, is to relax, not tighten, the regulations concerning eligibility. In such a way might, say, Joe Rokocoko and his cousin Sitiveni Sivivatu, once they have served the All Black paymaster, become available once again to the land of their birth, Fiji.

Syd, it must be said, didn't appear to think this was the answer to all his prayers. Something about a piqued Welshman hopping off to play for Scotland, or an Englishman ship-jumping to Italy seemed to offend his Northern Irish soul. But there must, surely, be something that can be done to increase the numbers in rugby's international elite...

I borrow the following idea from Scott Johnson, at the moment the skills coach with Wales, but who is being courted by appointment boards the world over, ranging from Leicester to Australia. Now here is a radical thinker on the game, only too happy, as a Parramatta boy, to look beyond the parish.

Why not, mused the bloke who prowls the touchline in his shorts when Wales play - a sort of rabble-rouser to the crowd and comfort blanket to the players - make the Six Nations seven? Invite Argentina into the old European championship and base them for its duration in Spain?

Most of the Argentine players already play club rugby in Europe. Putting them up for two months in Barcelona or Madrid or San Sebastian - or maybe making them peripatetic in all three - would provide them with the comforts of home language and could do wonders for the Iberian game. Would travelling fans from these parts shun the notion of a weekend in any of those cities?

Having seven in the championship would give each country three matches at home and three away, fairer than the current 3-2 or 2-3 split. And there would be a rest weekend for each country, never a bad thing in these congested times.

The inclusion of the Pumas would stretch the timescale of the Seven Nations. Another good reason, then, to move the whole thing down the calendar, to the end of the European season, where it would be an international showpiece in its own slot. No cup rounds in the middle, no tug-of-war between coaches. The clubs would have finished with the players and could hand them over without rancour to the countries. San Sebastian is nice enough in February; in April you could stick the cossie in.

I am trying to think of any drawbacks. Not having consulted the Union Argentina de Rugby is a bit presumptuous, but I just thought it might be better aired first than damned before birth by a blazer at the Belgrano club. The Pumas leave Buenos Aires over my dead body, and all that.

Argentina might resist the lure of Europe if they thought they were in with a chance of being invited into the Tri-Nations. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby - SANZAR - are not, however, exactly tumbling over themselves to extend the hand of welcome. Perhaps they wouldn't know where to insert another A in their acronym. Theirs is an exclusive rugby club, in that they are very good, but they also do a mean line in exclusion.

Staging an annual Seven Nations would detract from the quadrennial World Cup. But, to be honest, ever since Japan were snubbed as hosts for the 2011 tournament, I am not sure the World Cup is going to stand the test of time, or whether we should even be that bothered.

The England victory of 2003 was a landmark occasion, as was the South Africa triumph of 1995. Neither, though, became the keystone that could support a skyscraper of development. England and South Africa rather fell apart after winning. The import of the Rugby World Cup may be overblown.

If human migratory patterns and the flux of money across the Pacific are beyond the control of the IRB, rugby's governing body could argue that the venue of the World Cup is similarly beyond its influence. The would-be host countries tender their bids, lobby the voting unions and subject themselves to selection by secret ballot.

In that respect, New Zealand won the 2011 raffle fair and square. And they will do a very good job. Splendid place. Lovely. But it said about as much about growth as a lawn in January.

We have only one thing to resolve in the World Cup, and that is France winning the thing. Once they have achieved that at home in 2007, we shall be back to square one: New Zealand won the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and they shall win in 2011. Australia, England, South Africa and France will take it in turns to give it a five-country veneer of global credibility.

Japan would not have won the World Cup at home in 2011. But at least staging it in Tokyo and Osaka and whizzing fans past Mount Fuji would have been a new experience. Something, heaven forbid, a little daring. But no, back we go. Backwards and inwards. Oh my. Bah, humbug.

It isn't all depressing. Wales - sorry, had to get it in - lit up the 2005 Six Nations and if there have been two better atmospheres than the night and day at the Millennium Stadium when England and Ireland came to play, then we have been truly touched by sport.

The All Blacks, with their three teams of world-class performers, from John Afoa to Tony Woodcock through all the Mealamus and Jacks and McCaws, played rugby as scintillating as has ever been seen. And the person who thought they might be vulnerable at the scrummage should be taking some strong pills. Carl Hayman and Woodcock have done for the New Zealand scrum what Dan Carter and Aaron Mauger have done for their backs: combined strength and skill and style with just a touch of law-bending.

Wales's 2005 win over England and the contrast in the neighbours' styles will ensure that the 2006 Six Nations will be off to a flying start. There is much in the small world of rugby to look forward to.

If there is not a Pacific Ocean of promise out there at least the game can still serve up drama by the large pondful. As we say in the newspaper business, perhaps we just have to downsize sometimes and say that smaller can be better. If you're a player take care. If not, go wild. Merry Christmas.

aldo does kurt darren in the bum!!! lol  
davidS is a sex addict whl pulls his wire during lunchtime!!!  
I still believe that the fall of Tongan, Fijian and Samoan rugby can be placed squarely at the doors of Australia and New Zealand's idea of developing the rugby in these countries by luring their players and families from these countries to their own is a complete travesty.

It's a massive klap in the face of developing the game.

At least we're trying to develop the game in Africa.

And to add, Argentina is getting unbdeservedly snubbed out of everything when it comes to tests. This is a team who have managed something the Boks haven't been able to do forever...beat France in France at Marseilles....even the All Blacks haven't done that.

Prior to 1995, and even as late as 1999, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa used to get to the play-off stages of RWC regularly and who can ever forget how West Samoa stole everyone's hearts at the 1991 RWC with their agonising 9-3 loss to Australia in the quarter finals.

Samoa's powerful robust play against South Africa in the 1995 RWC and Tonga's showing against Australia in 1999

We won't be seeing that again if the Kiwi idea of development is the patronising view of

"Aw let the buggers come here and we'll give them some money to send home"

Provincially okay.....internationally....not okay......

Of course in their arrogany overbloated arrogant self absorbed mindset the word development doesn't even figure..
Ah, and wpw arrives with his usual special brand of dragons

wpw is Danie Rossouw's bunny
Eish wpw, you're getting worse by the day!lmao

Anyway, wpw takes it up the bum from FW de Klerk.
This is one of the best articles I have read this year.

Thanks Ras

I wonder what St Mike will make about the importance of the World Cup win now.

I support Boertjies take in total- bring back tours- hard- assed midweek game tours-think lateral to make space.

Maybe SARU should wake up and INSIST that Argentina should be included otherwise no Tri-nations.

Anyway- good article to start a 2006-wide debate on the game's importance world-wide.

And- well done to the skills merchant from the parish of parramatta- ;-), lol one day I may even write as good an article as this in Anglo.

Skills merchant from the Parish of Parramatta?

What the hell is that?

read the arti :-)
Missed that detail OO

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