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World Rugby Calendar - focus on Tier 2

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Post by robbo277 Wed 9 Oct - 15:52

I nearly posted this on the Wales vs Fiji thread where the discussion has started to veer that way, but didn't want to completely derail it.

As we move to the end of the Pool stages, Russia and Fiji have finished their tournaments and Samoa, Namibia, Canada, Tonga, USA, Georgia and Uruguay get one more hit out before disappearing into the relative wilderness. Japan too may keep going in this tournament, but what is happening going forward?

Regular competition

Six Nations in February/March. Rugby Championship in August/September. Sorted. But what about the other 10 teams?

Georgia and Russia play in Tier 1 of the Rugby European International Championship. This is a six team competition and runs concurrently with the Six Nations. Some of the lower tiers play games in the previous autumn, but Tier 1 at least plays 5 games over the spring. There is a relegation/promotion play-off system.

Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, sometimes Japan and occasionally USA and Canada play in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup. The Junior All Blacks and Australia A used to play in it, and Georgia even got a runout in 2018. There is an inconsistent format, teams do not always participate each year and the window seems to change. 2019 was in July/August, 2018 and 2016 were in the June test window while 2017 was in July. It seems like a tournament that could do with more consistency. With a large number of the relevant players playing in Europe, maybe this will need to be considered within it's scheduling. Would a consistent tournament with their best players available be more beneficial than the occasional fixture against a Tier 1 country?

USA, Canada and Uruguay compete in the Americas Rugby Championship. This tournament also has Argentina XV, so one non-full International team. The competition has 6 teams (also includes Brazil and Chile) and is played in a similar format to the Six Nations over the same window. This has been consistent for the last four years.

The final team is Namibia and they play in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup. Tournaments were played in 2017 and 2018 with 6 teams in an round robin played between late May and August. The 2019 competition was restructured due to the loss of a key sponsor. Ultimately, Namibia didn't compete in a competition.

Possibly also worth noting that Japan competed in the 2016 and 2017 Asia Rugby Cup Championship - although they are far too good for that level.

What are the quick fixes?

With a glance at the pools, Japan and Fiji are 2nd/3rd and 3rd in their pool. Samoa are 4th, as are Tonga. I think nailing down their competition format and a regular window would be beneficial. Even if it was in the July window and they didn't get to host a Six Nations team, having all their players available would create a really strong competition. If they just focussed on the July window and the November window, their players would still be attractive to the European clubs, as they would be available throughout the spring in addition to all times the rest of their players were available. They could then play 4 games in the summer window and 4 in the November window and possibly a couple of fixtures with home-based players against each other or smaller local countries like Hong Kong etc.

You could include the winner of the Americas Rugby Championship (played in March) in this tournament to make 5 teams and 4 fixtures (2 home, 2 away) for all. That would ordinarily be USA, so you should have a good level of competition in this tournament.

One thing that would help is World Rugby supporting this tournament and ensuring player release. If it was in the summer test window, I don't know how the clubs could refuse. They'd get their Pacific players back at the same time as their home internationals.

Medium term

I think ultimately to have a strong 20 team World Cup, we need to have more than 2 strong global competitions - so any talk of expansion by adding a team or two is unsustainable. Promotion/relegation is also not going to increase the number of good teams - although this would possibly create a Tier 1.5 where Georgia close the gap on Italy, but the gap between Italy and the other 6 Nations remains wide. If we could add more strong global competitions then you have the potential for a much larger number of teams playing meaningful, competitive tests.

There is an established Rugby Europe Championship and once you get an established Pacific Nations Cup, it becomes how you promote these competitions. Instead of the World League, you could create a World Trophy on non-World Cup years with the winner of the Six Nations, Rugby Championship, Rugby European Championship and Pacific Nations Cup playing off over two weeks in November. This would help create interest in these subsidiary tournaments and help sell joint TV rights.

So if you look at this year (and imagine there was no World Cup) you'd have Wales, Georgia, New Zealand and Japan qualifying. You could have Wales vs Japan and Georgia vs New Zealand as your semi-finals in November and a final and 3rd place game on the same day. These would take the place of two ordinary AIs.

Long term

In the longer term, to support a 20 (or more) team rugby world cup we'll probably need more professional leagues so more countries can create the kind of depth they need to regularly compete.

Africa is an issue and I worry for Namibia in the long term, however they at least have a team in the Vodacom Cup.


World Rugby's focus should be on the 4 pacific nations, as they don't have a strong, regular competition. They should have a regular competition with guaranteed release. After that, they should look to promote more tournaments, rather than focussing on the two they have.


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Post by Afro Wed 9 Oct - 15:56

For me, relegation and promotion should be considered and may help the Tier 1 sides as well, focusing their attention on improving to avoid relegation. Italy are further behind now then when they joined the Six Nations

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Post by BamBam Wed 9 Oct - 16:06

We often talk about Italy's struggles, but they've fairly comprehensively tonked Canada and Namibia in the pools. The question is whether Georgia or another side would have performed similarly against those teams even though they aren't regularly involved in a Tier 1 competition

The key for me is whether its better for these sides (PIs, Georgia, Canada, Russia, Namibia etc) to play each other more regularly or whether its better for them to play and in reality take heavy losses against the established Tier 1 sides.

Does the best Tier 2 European side playing Italy almost every year and probably losing in a playoff do enough?


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