PHILADELPHIA, PA – My wife and I sat down Saturday evening to watch some TV. We were twenty minutes into the film The Big Night when she turned suddenly to me. “Wait. Is there no rugby this weekend?” She seemed incredulous. There is always rugby, it must seem to her. And she is correct. I replied, “There is, but we can’t watch it.” We don’t have DirectTV, so no Super Rugby for us.”
The expectation that there is always rugby on is a problem.
It is time to start killing off some test rugby.
Test match rugby is important because it is important. Huh? It is important because those matches have been the most important historically–money, pomp, etc.
The Bledisloe Cup is a good example of how test rugby is being overused. Sure, the Australia and New Zealand unions expect to make money by playing a fourth test in Hong Kong or Tokyo. That test, in terms of rugby and its long-term future, is a bad decision. Cameron Treloar wrote a great letter to the rugby community in Australia, but part of the reason the crowds didn’t turn up for the games against the French is that there is a glut of rugby.
Let’s value the events, the players, and the fans by treating test rugby as something special, something to be savored.
Every year there is something compelling about the Six Nations, but there is also at least a match or two that pales in comparison to the club rugby that has to take a back seat to tests. Beyond simply viewing them as special, there is also the reality that club rugby can be even more compelling. Saracens v Toulon in the Heineken Cup Final was way more intriguing as a match up than Scotland v Wales.
Here is my proposal:
Year 1: Autumn tours and Six Nations
Year 2: June tours and Rugby Championship
Year 3: Revised Lions Tour and Other (Such as a Club World Championship or Featured Tier 2 Tournament)
Year 4: World Cup
In this kind of rotation we keep what we already love, but it becomes more valuable – as it is scarcer. More emphasis would also be placed on club matches because there would be less competition for attention. Top level players would also have more of a chance to rest and be fit. This summer has shown how coaches are struggling. Look at the squad Stuart Lancaster used. Every healthy England-eligible hooker from the Premiership was in the England camp this summer. Look at Vern Cotter doing a smart thing and splitting his squad into two parts for Northern and Southern legs of the Scotland tour.
Fewer test matches would hurt nations like Italy, Scotland, and Argentina. That’s bad. However, the better way to help rugby in those nations is through vibrant club competitions.
The rugby calendar needs to be pruned. Starting with the big branches make sense. From there, more work can be done to shape the global calendar in a way that promotes the growth of the game.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.