What next for Japan?

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Post by 123456789. on Sun 13 Oct 2019, 6:48 pm

First topic message reminder :

In the aftermath of Japan's victory over Scotland Sir Ian McGeechan suggested they come into the Six Nations. Japan have quite obviously broken out of Tier 2 now.

However there can be little argument that the Rugby World is utterly terrible at bringing teams from Tier 2 into Tier One. Italy were the first great pioneers however they have never really kicked on. Having jockeyed with Scotland for fifth in the Six Nations since the noughties achieving the odd fourth place finish they now seem fairly rooted at the bottom of the Six Nations. They've never reached the knockout stages of the World Cup. Argentina followed Italy, first reaching the knockout stages in 2007, they achieved three consecutive knockout appearances. Reaching the semi-final twice. Entering the Rugby Championship in 2012 they've won a grand total of 5 games. They've just failed to reach the Quarter Finals. In the decade prior to reaching entering the Rugby Championship they played Scotland 10 times and won 60% of the games. Since then they have faced Scotland five times and lost each time. Similarly both Italy and Argentina have been ushered into the ranks of Tier One domestic rugby, Los Jaguares entering Super Rugby in 2016 and Italian teams entering the then Celtic League in 2010. Italy saw an initial upturn between 2011 and 2015 following their entry to the elite of domestic rugby winning 5 matches in the Six Nations, including victories over Ireland and France on occasion. Since 2015 they have been woeful failing to win a game and rarely threatening to either. Since bonus points were introduced they have failed to score four tries on any occasion and have picked up only one losing bonus point. It's hard to see any discernible improvement to Argentinian fortunes since their teams entered Super Rugby in 2016. T

Moving on from Argentina and Italy, there's the Pacific Islanders. Rugby's most naturally gifted nation, exploited by rich clubs and rich nations alike with very little return. Fiji having reached the knockout stages of the World Cup in 1999 and 2007. Samoa reached the knockout stages in 1991 and 1995. Tonga have been less successful but did record a notable victory over France in 2011. Of the Tier One Nations (especially if we include Japan) only Argentina and South Africa do not have players of Fijian, Samoan and Tongan descent. You would be hard pressed to find a professional rugby side in Europe without a Pacific Islander. In return they get the odd token game against Tier One opposition in November and every four years or so Scotland go to play there because no one else will have them. The treatment of them is World Rugby's greatest shame.

So how do World Rugby go right with Japan where they have gone wrong so many times before? Given the Sunwolves have been terminated and seem unlikely to be resuscitated any time soon how does World Rugby ensure that Japan cement their status amongst Tier One and remain there. For the National team there's three obvious options: Firstly continuing as they are, Secondly entering the Six Nations, Thirdly entering the Rugby Championship, Fourthly, Rugby changing altogether.

The first option would be incredibly shortsighted, Rugby has few economic powerhouses. Failing to capitalise on Rugby's popularity would be a wasted opportunity. However our existing elite competitions cannot keep expanding every time a new powerhouse emerges. Consider where Japan were 15 years ago being beaten by Matt Williams' Scotland by 100 points compared to today. We could see the USA or Russia embark on a similar journey over the next fifteen years. Why should Japan leap frog the Pacific Islanders? Could World Rugby not invest more in the Pacific Championship.

The Second option is the Six Nations, Japan is only slightly longer in terms of travel from London as from Auckland. The Southern Hemisphere teams have done all the running in terms of expanding rugby since Italy joined the Six Nations. On the other hand the Six Nations is an intrinsically European competition, it exists to find the best team in Europe. Also, as I have argued before, part of its appeal is its parochialism and the cultural aspect. The visits between ancient European capitals that can be done on a budget and of a weekend. Tokyo would be a different kettle of fish. There is also the fact that Georgia are not far away and who knows how rugby will progress in Russia or enjoy a resurgence in Romania. There is the argument that if the Six Nations should expand there are European countries who have been queuing up for years. Why should Japan leapfrog them?

The third option is the Rugby Championship. Japan, in rugby terms, is very much so in the southern hemisphere. Japan is a common retirement location for New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans. In terms of time difference the logistics are better. There is also the fact that travelling fans are less of a feature, for reasons of geography not apathy, in the rugby championship so that wouldn't impact so much. But where you can cite Georgia or Russia for the Six Nations, you can mention Fiji, Tonga and Samoa for the Rugby Championship. In my opinion it is the most natural option but not a straightforward choice by any means.

Fourth, we can change the Rugby Calendar. My objection to this is based entirely on the rather conservative attitude that expansion shouldn't be at the expense of the existing rugby nations. The Six Nations is a brilliant contest. Not just because of the rugby but because of the history. When Wales come to Edinburgh the place picks up, the atmosphere is amazing. Scotland and England have been one country for 312 years yet it's still feels better than anything to beat them, some of my best friends at University were Irish so playing them is a special occasion (for me, I don't think the makeup of nationalities amongst my social circle should impact world rugby, the point being how close these countries are). There is so much history in our set ups that we'd be losing far more than we'd gain by a global calendar in my opinion. There is, however, more than one way to skin a cat. One suggestion I've always been in favour of is regional knockout competitions in "Lions" years. Why not have a European Cup every four years? It would massively favour France as they wouldn't be weakened by the Lions and they, well, aren't Italy. But it would be a developmental option for the Home Nations with their star players away with the Lions (and we in Scotland could try out a new Doctor). Imagine a tournament of 12-16 teams in Georgia. In the "Southern Hemisphere" (in loose rugby terms) we could see the likes of the USA, Canada, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Uruguay, Namibia maybe, in time, Kenya with a regular outlet to test themselves against the best. Again one of these occasions hosted across the Pacific Islands could have a transformative effect. The Rugby Championship sides could put out weakened teams to expose their second/ third stringers to tournament rugby two years out from a World Cup. The only issue being that the teams not involved in the Lions risk their revenue during the June tests. Northern hemisphere teams would have to look at sharing profits in November, but that's a pressing discussion anyway. I don't think it's a solution for Japan (I think they've earned at least a debate about entrance to the top table), but I do think it's a way to expand rugby while preserving what's good about it currently.

Anyway, I have digressed, and the central question remains, what next for Japan?

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Post by Irish Londoner on Wed 23 Oct 2019, 3:31 pm

SecretFly wrote:
Cyril wrote:Not sure Oldman’s proposal would work (not would I want it to).

You would find the better players in club rugby rather than internationals. Internationals would end up like the 7s circuit. Players would not want to be taken out of the club game.

We need fewer international games not more. Club rugby is great and is the lifeblood of the game, not internationals. What makes international games special is the scarcity of them.

I agree that less is more as regards International but I actually think the balance right now is okay...

If anything had to go in International, for me it would be Lions and just keep giving International sides one on one encounters.  That's the game.

If you can't beat NZ on your own then you should use International time to bloody well try to establish the players and systems to do so, not send often more than half your regular Internationals off on a jamboree to try to beat the ABs using a combination of four International sides.  It gets bloody embarrassing actually.

So Lions dissolved and real one on one competition prioritised.

The problem is that The Lions are huge money spinners both for the four home nations, think TV rights, shirt and souvenir sales, "official" travel packages, etc. and also huge money spinners for the SH nations when the Lions tour there for the same reasons. There's much more interest beyond the normal rugby audience when the Lions tour as opposed to one of the home nations on their own.

Also even in this cynical age, the players themselves still invest very much in the Lions as a concept, even more than getting a national cap, being a Lion moves you into an elite grouping above that - you're not just the best in your position for England/Ireland/etc. but you're the best in the NH.

What could happen is that in a Lions year they could play a warm up game before the tour proper at a T2 nation, and the national squads (sans Lions) could tour T2 nations in the summer period - what a shot in the arm it would be for rugby in Europe if the NH T1 teams did a tour of Romania, Georgia and Russia, or for PI rugby if they went to Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.


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Post by robbo277 on Wed 23 Oct 2019, 3:32 pm

hugehandoff wrote:How about separate Southern and Northern hemisphere tournaments every 4 years in between the RWCs? Would give all tier 2 sides more exposure to tier 1 and break up the monotony of the existing format. But would no doubt lose money by replacing some tier 1 V tier 1 matches with a tier 2 fixture? I would not want anything as protracted as the RWC and therefore has to be more condensed. Group stages and maybe just semi and a final.  

I had a thought about this. I got a pretty good European Championship. The Southern Hemisphere / ROW championship I was trying to work out was more problematic. Less neat, but could work.

The post ended up quite long, so I stuck some of it in spoiler tags. This is where I felt things weren't necessary to read, but might add a bit more if there were any queries.

European Championship - to be played on Lions years

Okay, so you take the 6 Nations and the REC nations and you split them 3 and 3 into 2 new pools of 6. So in 2021, you could have:
Wales, England, Italy, Spain, Romania, Germany/Portugal
Ireland, Scotland, France, Georgia, Russia, Belgium

So in February/March you play the two separate and distinct tournaments as normal. But the results against your pool teams count towards the European Championship. There is a slight home-and-away issue discussed in the spoiler tag, but essentially everyone would carry forward 1 home game and 1 away game.

Home and away issue:
Some jiggery-pokery would be needed to make sure that, e.g. if Wales vs England was in the Millennium, England vs Italy would be at Twickenham and Italy vs Wales would be in Italy. So you get 1 home game and 1 away game each. What this may end up with is every 4 years the fixtures get jumbled up. So rather than having the same rotation forever, the rotation might change every 4 years. But within those 4 year blocks you'd ensure that everyone played everyone at home twice and away twice, and had the right number of home and away games each year. It's a small concession.

So after March everyone has 2 results and 3 games to play - with no extra games played.

Then, in the July window when the Lions are on, the 6 Nations teams would play away tours at the 3 European grounds. E.g. Wales would play Spain, Romania and Germany, England would play Romania, Germany and Spain and Italy would play Germany, Spain and Romania over consecutive weeks. This would replace the tours to wherever else, so no extra games. This would round off your pool stage.

Conferencing:
You could split the REC teams into a West and East conference (e.g. Spain, Belgium and Germany and Georgia, Russia and Romania) if you wanted to reduce the travel, but this is a minor detail.

You could then have the play-offs in the November window. This for a start gives you a chance to schedule and organise it. If you blocked out the first two weeks for a semi-final and final, you could play 3 tier tournaments and end up placing 1-12 to ensure everyone gets the two games. The location of these games I haven't decided, either you could have a host country, 3 host countries or even use some more exotic locations (USA, Dubai, Far East, etc), with a fairly important factor being to maximise (and then share) the revenue. You'd be hoping to get a big sponsor and TV rights as well, so maybe staying in the European time zone would be more sensible. There is a third November weekend that can be used for a money spinner (or rest, but probably the former).

A European Championship with no additional games, giving the REC countries 3 home tests against (probably weakened) 6 Nations sides, preserving the primacy of the Lions and marquee finals.

Rest of the World Championship - to be played on Lions years

The rest of the World Championship I found harder. But this is what I've got.

The Rugby Championship team playing the Lions (which will never be Argentina on current rotation) will not be able to play in a pool stage. Can't fit it in. But that's fine.

The other 3 teams will be split into 3 pools.

The Americas Rugby Championship is played in February and March. The top 2 teams from the ARC that year will qualify for the Americas Pool. They will be joined by Argentina.
The Pacific Nations Championship is played in August. They will be split into 2 pools based on the prior year's seeding. They will be joined by the two other Rugby Championship teams.

Pacific Pool A: New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga
Pacific Pool B: Australia, Japan, Samoa
Americas Pool: Argentina, USA, Uruguay

The USA vs Uruguay result would carry forward from the ARC. Argentina would then play both away in the July window.

Also in the July window, NZ and Australia would play both their pool teams notionally away - but with the home team reversing the fixture if they don't have the infrastructure to support it (e.g. if it's more profitable for Fiji to play NZ in Auckland than Suva, moving the game would be their prerogative). The matches between the two PNC teams in Pool A and the two PNC teams in Pool B would then be played in the Pacific Nations Cup to give 3 pools with 2 matches in each played.

The play-offs I've had to cheat slightly. I've had to give the team who played the Lions a bye into the Cup to make Cup semis and final. I've then got a plate semi and final from the 3 runners up and the best third placed team, with a bowl final between the two others. But again, it gives you a chance to play that over two weeks, again in November and again in revenue-maximising locations.

The rest of the world competition gives you a free week in July (would probably result in a NZ vs Australia Bledisloe game somewhere), and also the Tier 2 games only host 1 match, so they are free to play a couple of other games against local opposition in July. Again, there is a free week in November where the SH teams can try and arrange more fixtures at home or in neutral ground to make up for the lost July tour income. Although considering Argentina normally get England and play a B team themselves, 1 country get France (who are currently poor) and the other gets Italy (who are always poor) they're not exactly missing out on prime fixtures.

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Post by Lowlandbrit on Wed 23 Oct 2019, 4:19 pm

Afro wrote:NH/Europe the option could be dropping back to 5 teams at T1, then having more levels of 5 teams below with a chance of relegation/promotion between the levels. As previously alluded to, that would probably need a playoff between the bottom of one tier and top of the one below, to ensure teams aren't promoted before they are ready and become lambs to the slaughter, and that a team isn't relegated to a tier where they are just going to roll over all the other teams.
In theory the best way would probably be seperate GB/I and continental 4 nations tournaments with 1v1, 2v2, etc. at the end, but France would have absolutely no reason to go for it. You could also do something similar with the current 6, or even go back to five and have the team that isn't playing each week play a team from the second tier instead to give those teams more regular tests without full-on adding them.

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Post by Brendan on Wed 23 Oct 2019, 4:43 pm

The problem with internationals is that there is no joined up windows per say.

The European have the 6 Nations window when most European matches take place from 6N all the way down to the bottom teir of development.  At the same time in the SH SR is going on.

NZ and Oz then basically have one window from the start of the RC to whenever they finish playing each other and every other team willing to fork over the cash.

I would happily see NH v SH matches only happen every two years and play the 6N return fixtures in the summer giving 5 more games.  This would mean no AIs to mess with the club season

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Post by Brendan on Wed 23 Oct 2019, 4:47 pm

So year after and before WC play 10 game 6 nation

Play SH at WC and mid cycle

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Post by tigertattie on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 9:51 am

Why make things so complicated?

Just have qualification tournament for the 6Ns and the RC where the T2 sides play the lowest ranked teams in each tournament.

take the 6Ns as the exmaple.

In Nov you get Italy, Georgia, Romania, Spain, Belgium to play a Euro comp with the same process and rules of the 6Ns.

Whoever tops the table gets to play in the 6Ns the following Feb. Whoever then comes last in that 6Ns (even if its someone else like Scotland), then they drop into the qualifier in Nov and have to earn thier place back in the 6ns the next again year.
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Post by bluestonevedder on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 10:42 am

tigertattie wrote:Why make things so complicated?

Just have qualification tournament for the 6Ns and the RC where the T2 sides play the lowest ranked  teams in each tournament.

take the 6Ns as the exmaple.

In Nov you get Italy, Georgia, Romania, Spain, Belgium to play a Euro comp with the same process and rules of the 6Ns.

Whoever tops the table gets to play in the 6Ns the following Feb. Whoever then comes last in that 6Ns (even if its someone else like Scotland), then they drop into the qualifier in Nov and have to earn thier place back in the 6ns the next again year.

I fully support this. The November games between the 6N bottom team and the T2's would be fantastic. There would actually be something to play for in November rather than just world ranking points

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Post by Old Man on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 10:51 am

bluestonevedder wrote:
tigertattie wrote:Why make things so complicated?

Just have qualification tournament for the 6Ns and the RC where the T2 sides play the lowest ranked  teams in each tournament.

take the 6Ns as the exmaple.

In Nov you get Italy, Georgia, Romania, Spain, Belgium to play a Euro comp with the same process and rules of the 6Ns.

Whoever tops the table gets to play in the 6Ns the following Feb. Whoever then comes last in that 6Ns (even if its someone else like Scotland), then they drop into the qualifier in Nov and have to earn thier place back in the 6ns the next again year.

I fully support this. The November games between the 6N bottom team and the T2's would be fantastic. There would actually be something to play for in November rather than just world ranking points

In that case you wouldn’t need the ranking system anymore though.

If NH is only going to play SH during RWC, why have a ranking system in place at all?

The other side of the coin is, European nations already have the pick of the litter with SH players, draining their domestic comps and now some are suggesting taking the June and November tours away.

Might as well have two separate rugby organizations.

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Post by SecretFly on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 11:12 am

tigertattie wrote:Why make things so complicated?


Yes, but that presumes that coaches (for a start) aren't ambitious, don't have their careers plotted out for themselves, or don't have a high regard for their own ability and worth.

What you're really suggesting is that some Tier 1 sides should be prepared or be forced to risk becoming Tier 2 sides.  

So be it.

But on to the coaches.  Let's say for example that Conor O'Shea, ex Premiership DOR, remained at Italy.  Let's say the framework you proposed begins, let's say Italy falls down the relegation ladder.  Would a coach like Conor O'Shea, or even Townsend, truly want to remain with an ex-6N side now playing against Georgia, Spain and Romania?  Or would he have clear cut exit clauses in his contract that stated if Italy drops then I'm off either to another 6N side or back to lucrative club rugby in England, France or Pro14?

When position goes, when you slide through a relegation trap door, you just don't lose the position, you stand to lose some of the tools you'd need to perhaps get back up.  You might even lose some of your best Internationals who might decide it's time to concentrate on their own club careers rather than playing Tier 2 games against Romania.

So be it, you might say.  If Italy go down long term, then that's their lot.  But all that has happened is that one Tier 2 side replaces Italy in Tier 1 and Italy go down, down to familiar Tier 2.  You haven't increased Tier 2 exposure to Tier 1, you've just replaced one Tier 1 with another.  Rugby gets even less popular in Italy, the Union has even more trouble getting funding from sponsors etc, Italian players shift to Top 14 and renounce their International status for bigger salaries.
I'm only using Italy as an example by the way.... same conditions could hit Scotland, Ireland or Wales.  Such conditions would never happen to England or France.  So selfishly, I'm all for giving more exposure to Tier 2 teams....... but at the expense of dropping all the way down into an habitual sewer of Tier 2 ourselves...with no players or coaches left to ever get back up when wealthy Nations like USA, Japan, Germany, Russia begin to suck up coaching talent to themselves?  Nope, I just won't be a turkey that votes for Christmas.

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Post by 123456789. on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 12:09 pm

It's hard to see any side signing up to the November qualifying idea. For the simple reason that you sacrifice the big money matches against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. If you slip up against Georgia at the end of the month due to injuries, unavailability, poor performances etc. then you lose out on the big money Six Nations matches and the Tier One home games the following November. In effect you're asking Unions to risk between three and nine sell outs. The real issue that people forget is that the job of the SRU is to further rugby in Scotland first and foremost. Whilst they may want to spread Rugby around the world that has to happen in such a way that protects their interests too, or at least does not threaten their core status too much. Promotion and Relegation from the Six Nations does that. Promotion and Relegation from the Six Nations based on a November Test series does that with bells on. World Rugby's issue is that it is too predicated with adapting the old to fit the new rather than coming up with something new altogether. The empirical evidence is that teams reach Tier One status on their own and having achieved it fall backwards. I firmly believe that the way to go is regional tournaments in Lions years. They'll be more competitive than World Cups as the cream of the Home Nations will be away. The French will probably have alternative touring arrangements. It will increase exposure by more than one country at a time. The great irony being that the modernisers in English rugby want rid of promotion and relegation, simultaneously the modernisers in International rugby want it introduced.

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Post by Gooseberry on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 12:43 pm

Theres far more merit in dropping Italy from the 6 nations than there is on bringing other low ranked sides in to expand it.

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Post by 123456789. on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 1:04 pm

I'm not sure that dropping Italy will have any practical benefit at all. There's a huge debate as to whether having them in the tournament in the first place was a wise decision however now they are in it is the Six Nations. It can not and should not revert. Dropping Italy sets a dangerous precedent, if you have a few bad years you're out. In the nineties the Welsh and the Irish were pretty poor, should they have been culled? Scotland were pretty dreadful from 2004 to 2015, with the green shoots of recovery starting to show through now. Again financially getting rid of Italy makes little sense. It means five fewer games for broadcasters. It means fewer sellouts for the other nations. It would probably destroy rugby in Italy for little practical reason whatsoever. As an experiment the Italy inclusion has not really worked but I think it's too late to boot them. Similar to Argentina. I do think however that the lessons of both should be heeded when considering Japan, Fiji and Georgia who seem to be the next cabs off the rank (Fiji having been the next cab off of the rank for some time now).

That contorting and melding additions into the existing structures is not an effective or sustainable policy for expansion is obvious. We need to come up with something new that preserves what is good and expands rugby around the world. Simply adding teams is not a long term solution. In 2004 Japan were nowhere, they lost by a hundred points to Scotland. Fifteen years on and they're in the knockout stages having won seven out of eight of their last World Cup pool games, beating Samoa, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa. In fifteen years we may see Georgia make a similar leap, Russia make a similar leap, the USA make a similar leap, Canada make a similar leap. World Rugby may finally find a way to help Samoa, Fiji and Tonga reach their undoubted potential. Do we have two leviathan international tournaments based on nothing other than which side of the equator the teams lie on? Or do we respect the fact that the Six Nations is based on old rugby rivalries and historic cultural connections as much as the respective ability of their teams? The Rugby Championship is a newer tournament but based on similar rugby rivalries. There needs to be a way to expand rugby without rupturing the integrity of its current pillars.

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Post by Brendan on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 7:29 pm

https://i.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/rugby-world-cup/rwc-2019-japan/116585906/all-blacks-to-be-targeted-by-new-japan-league-in-wake-of-rugby-world-cup-success

Japan hoping to have a rich league were clubs make 30-40m a year. If they make half that SR might be hit harder then now for player drain.

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Post by miaow on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 9:04 pm

Exactly. Why on earth would Japan not grow their own league? Makes complete sense - they could have the best domestic rugby competition in the world in 10 years' time.

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Post by SecretFly on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 11:00 pm

Exactly.

These Nations like Japan, USA, Russia, Spain, Romania etc don't need assistance to improve their Tier 2 rugby.  All they need is to put their hands in their pockets and commit to becoming Tier 1.  The resources are there in population sizes and for many of them in terms of economy. Have their leagues, invest in teams, and if they can manage it, even suck best rugby coaches away from current Tier 1 sides.

But do the work.  I tire when I listen to small countries of 4 or 5 million being asked what they're prepared to do to 'help' Nations with 40, 50, 60 or 100million people.  Try helping themselves first.

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Post by Cyril on Thu 24 Oct 2019, 11:25 pm

Agree completely. Japan especially can sort themselves out and the likes of Spain, Germany, Russia etc. need to decide how much they want to invest in rugby.

The PI sides might be a special case, but they continue to cause their own problems with corruption and bad administration.

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Post by tigertattie on Fri 25 Oct 2019, 11:04 am

Cyril wrote:Agree completely. Japan especially can sort themselves out and the likes of Spain, Germany, Russia etc. need to decide how much they want to invest in rugby.

The PI sides might be a special case, but they continue to cause their own problems with corruption and bad administration.

It's the romance of the PIs that have people wanting to "help" them grow rugby. I'd love them to be able to grown and become "tier 1" but the main driver for growth has to come fomr within.
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Post by 123456789. on Fri 25 Oct 2019, 1:33 pm

Corruption and bad administration are symptoms of abject poverty as much as they are causes. World Rugby does not have the wherewithal to raise three countries out of poverty. I said earlier in this thread that the RFU's revenue in 2015 was higher than Tonga's GDP. It is a fact of life that success follows money, so Samoans, Fijians and Tongans are always going to go to play in Europe and Japan. That cannot be stopped because ultimately it is an opportunity for people who have grown up in hardship to make a lot more money than they likely could at home. However the rugby world is incredibly globalised and when you have countries that are so, so poor and so integral to the Global Rugby Economy you cannot simply say they ought to sort it on their own. World Rugby cannot fix the underlying problem of poverty, it cannot and should not stop their players chasing the money but they can seek to ensure players are available to play for their countries, they can take steps to make them harder to exploit and they can try to organise more fixtures in the Pacific Islands.

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