IRB, HQ – With the Rugby World Cup kickoff just around the corner, it sure as heck looks like the IRB is looking to scuttle the minnows again. The minnows are the small-fry teams from countries where rugby is not exactly a house-hold word/sport.
The United States, despite its size, is one such minnow; a nation without a professional league, whose team is comprised mostly of players with day jobs. For instance, Canada, another small-fry, had to a player miss a RWC warm-up match due to work commitments. Take a look at these numbers:
Eng – 4/21
Aus – 4/20
SA – 4/19
USA – 4/16
Can – 4/18
Nambia – 4/16
What are these numbers? The 4 represents the number of RWC games to played in the pool stages. Every country has to play 4, of course. The number on the right side of the slash represents the number of days that nation has been allotted to play those 4 games.
The All Blacks, English & Wallabies all have a clear cut advantage the bottom 3 sample minnows. What makes it worse is that the top 4 are the top 4 in the world Rugby rankings, while that bottom 3 range from 12-17.
It would be ideal to have a full week between matches, like host New Zealand and returning finalist England, to frolic in the surf with a bit of nude rugby, but current World Champion South Africa‘s schedule would be fine for every nation.
The sponsors and broadcast networks want the best teams on TV on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I understand the logic, but it doesn’t make it fair. That is when the seats will be full and fans at home or at the pub will be glued to the games – and ratings will go sky high. But the price of getting those ratings comes at the expense, ironically, of the rugby poor – the minnows. This system virtually makes a Davey-Beats-Goliath story impossible. Teams that have less than a third of their roster as pro players, simply can’t compete without proper or at least equal rest. Because they don’t bring in the ratings, they can go kick rocks.
The 2015 RWC should be different. The IRB need to make the schedule fair and increase competition in the tourney. Argentina was the first Cinderalla Story in the RWC history, making it to the Final Four in 2007 – and that was great for the game. If there are to be more, the IRB must get it right.
Maybe PETA or Green Peace can help: Save The Minnows.