World Rugby

A weekly sports column from the 100 Mile Free Press

World Rugby, the governing body of rugby, has received a lot of criticism for their plans for the proposed World League, which would include the countries playing in the Six Nations (Ireland, France, England, Wales, Italy and Scotland), the Rugby Championship (Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa), Japan and the U.S.

Not only could it potentially destroy the World Cup (in Japan this year), it further alienates the countries considered to be in Tier 2, such as the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Samoa and Tonga) and the likes of Canada.

Dan Leo, a former player for Samoa who is currently a player welfare manager for Pacific players in Europe, called for a boycott of the league, seeing as it would “freeze out” the Pacific Islands.

Fiji, for example, should be considered a tier 1 nation according to World Rugby’s men international rankings. They sit in between France and Argentina at ninth place, ahead of Japan (11) and U.S. (13). Italy is even further behind at 15. Tonga and Samoa are at 14 and 16, respectively.

Criticism of the proposal was also found outside of the Pacific Islands.

Superstars Johnny Sexton (Ireland) and Owen Farrell (England) voiced their concerns, though they were more about travelling, scheduling, player welfare and conflicts with club rugby. All are valid concerns, but if there should be a major concern to World Ruby it should be with how this affects smaller rugby nations.

CEO of World Rugby, Brett Gosper, issued a statement on Twitter on March 2 to address the “avalanche of media” on the proposal. He said there would be a promotion/relegation system with two divisions of 12 nations. His main point though was the Pacific Islands would not be shut out.

Based on the international rankings, the second division would possibly look like the Pacific Nations would be in it, along with Georgia, Uruguay, Romania, Russia, Spain, Canada, Namibia. Belgium and the Netherlands.

Travelling would definitely be an issue in this division, even more so than the first division, especially financially.

It’s doubtful the Russians could afford to go to one of the Pacific Islands without much trouble. Or even Canada.

All the travelling would financially drain each of these teams and even more likely, drain the players who would probably be forced to pay out of their own pocket to travel by their respective national unions. Canadian players, for example, were asked to this during their return trip from the 2015 World Cup.

The Samoan Rugby Union also declared bankruptcy in 2017.

The divide between the upper reaches of rugby (New Zealand, Ireland, England, etc) and tier 2 nations gets larger and larger, with World Rugby seemingly more interested in making bank then promoting the sport in emerging nations.

It’s puzzling that nations such as the Pacific Islanders have not been included in the Rugby Championship despite being involved in the Rugby World Cup every time. Georgia and Romania should also be part of the Six Nations by now, always taking Italy to task during test matches.

It also has a lack of representation from Asia (aside from Japan) despite Hong Kong being in the 2019 World Cup repechage qualifying tournament, which Canada also took part in.

Instead, Belgium and the Netherlands would be in the division despite not even being close to qualifying for the World Rugby Cup since it’s beginnings in 1987.

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