Where do you stand on this topic?
New Zealand 96-17 Italy. Scotland 84-0 Romania. Argentina 59-5 Chile. This week we have seen some heavily one-sided World Cup results, and it’s causing a stir.
There is growing clamour that these results signal something far worse for the future of the sport. Interestingly for different reasons. One faction suggests that rugby has a ‘closed shop’, that promotes and pushes the established Tier One nations, and that this will be rugby’s undoing unless works to level the playing field are seriously ramped up.
Another feels that events like the Rugby World Cup are harmed by having as many of the weaker sides competing as it does.
And while we can unpack both, what is clear is that one-sided World Cup scores are turning people off.
We’ve also had a comment on our Facebook page, from one David Young, saying: “Group stages of the World Cup are an absolute joke. The competition isn’t worth the air time on telly until the quarter-finals.”
In his piece on What should the next Rugby World Cup look like?, Rugby World’s Alan Pearey talks well on “World Rugby’s commendable work on creating new regional competitions and pathways” but also adds: “Wouldn’t it be nice to see New Zealand play their first official Test in Suva? Or Spain, a top-20 nation, play France, Ireland or England?”
The hard work behind the scenes gets praise. But we also talk of progress. Alas, this week has shown definitively that the thrashings are not gone. And what’s worse, the last two have been shown live, in prime time, on ITV.
Rugby World’s view on one-sided World Cup results
Rugby World editor Alan Dymock says: “The corporate and TV money rolls in and the social media numbers keep climbing, we are told. Oh aye, bully for that, but can we really say that World Cups are getting more competitive?
“Rugby World Cup expansion is coming in the future, but there are still concerns that the tail of the current bunch isn’t pulling closer to the front fast enough.
“There are good people working incredibly hard and securing spend for the top end of what we now call the emerging nations. The successes of Fiji and Georgia cannot be ignored, Uruguay have really excited in spells, as have surprise package Portugal, and having different nations genuinely in the mix to win it all is excellent.
“But you’ll have heard the same noise over and over again from many of the emerging sides. It’s almost a chorus now – and one we join: ‘We need more competitive games; We need more competitive games; We need more competitive games.’
“The ambitious sides need quality Tests against top-tier nations more often. For some of these teams, they need more Tests, period.
“Some are realists: talk to certain unions and they understand that the new ‘world league’ (that is alluded to in Tweets above) will have dispassionate business reasons to keep it to 12 teams without promotion and relegation for a few years, and they are willing to wait a little. For now. But their patience is not infinite.
“As Georgian bosssaid in a piece for Rugby World: ‘World Cups offer a brilliant showcase to grow the game globally – which quite rightly is World Rugby’s primary mission. The new competition could do the same but according to reports organisers won’t bring in promotion and relegation until 2032. That would mean almost no chance of most of my current squad ever having the opportunity to take part however well they perform and whoever we beat.’
“Plans are afoot to make things slightly better in terms of Tests played between Tiers. But it’s a hard sell for some established unions. As one insider told us recently, though: ‘It’s time to accelerate plans.’
“The wooly mammoth in the room is of course, the 2031 Rugby World Cup in the United States of America. They were not strong enough to make the competition in France but there is already a huge drive to appeal to US audiences with the competition coming to town in eight years. There is definitely a similar concern about competitiveness. World Rugby are not oblivious to this – they can’t be.
“The harsh truth is that if we are going to have an elongated tournament that is stacked towards the weekends and major broadcasters only put the top tier sides on prime time, flagship channels, we simply cannot have one-sided World Cup results in those games. What does that tell the transient spectator about rugby?”