Great to see The 1014 growing in strength since your videos on the Lions tour. I have been watching your show regularly and have kept up with The Rugby Championship low-down with coverage just from your show. So much better than the standard TV stuff.
I wanted to contribute a bit to the general 1014 conversation but as I had quite a bit to include I didn’t think it would really work as a comment to any one of your videos. Until I saw a video and listened to your conversation on world rugby post-2021. Really what I wanted to discuss was lack of real competition at Test level and a global rugby calendar.
The Global Season
Firstly a global synchronised calendar for all rugby. Whereby all Super/top-level club rugby, takes place at the same time of year. Similarly, all international rugby takes place at the same time in two separate windows during the year.
From a European point of view, I don’t think there is an appetite for three separate windows during the year. February/March 6 Nations, June touring and November home internationals. Summer tours, in particular, can be flat. They are, by and large, seen as something added on to the end of the season, while opponents from the other side of the world are in the middle of their own season. The opposite also applies for SANZAAR teams in the November window.
I am trying not to use the terms northern and southern hemispheres. Why? Because I feel these terms are not equally opposite to one another in rugby terms which is at the heart of all rugby competition scheduling today. Language is never really neutral and in this case, these two terms do the sport a disservice.
Language is never really neutral and in this case, these two terms do the sport a disservice.
Lines of longitude
Agustín Pichot, who has done Trojan work since his playing days in developing Argentinian rugby and world rugby, in general, suggested a new narrative. Instead of dividing world rugby between north and south in terms of latitude, why not explore drawing up lines in terms of longitude.
There can be three main zones.
- North and South America,
- Europe and Africa,
- AUS, NZ, Japan, HK and Pacific Islands.
This setup reduces issues with time zones and travel for players. It also helps with the viewing audience who really don’t want to watch international rugby live, during the night or early morning.
Super/top-level club rugby
This new structure can also work with some investment from World Rugby. Professionalism has shown over the last 20 or so years that 12 or 14 teams, in a competition, played over a regular season, followed by a semi-final and final playoff, really works. It’s simple and it works. This is surely important.
- North/South America could have 2/3 teams from Argentina another from Uruguay and more from the U.S and Canada to make up the quota.
- Europe/RSA can develop super teams through amalgamation and representation at regional level (Munster, Leinster, London, Basque country, Italy, Transvaal etc.).
- AUS/NZ/Pacific can incorporate the big 5 from NZ, 3 from AUS, one each from Tonga, Fiji and Samoa and super teams from Japan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea etc. to make up their quota.
The above is a mixture of established teams and national teams that cannot really compete at Test level. Which of the big nations really want to play Italy, Samoa or Japan in a 2 or 3 Test series?
This structure or something like it would keep players in their own countries if they choose to play at home. It would also allow for players to play abroad for other franchises and still be available to play for the country during the Test windows.
- All internationals and Test rugby to be played at two set times during the year in a new global calendar
- Americas competition – ARG, Uruguay, Canada, USA + other developing nations such as Brazil
- Europe & Africa – 6 Nations & RSA and a second tier competition with promotion and relegation to the top tier. This second tier can be Georgia, Spain, NL, Italy etc
- NZ/AUS – New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Pacific nations Test team (Tonga, Fiji, Samoa)
- One off Test match with a real sense of occasion which is lacking. Round 4 rugby championship this year AUS vs RSA in Canberra with about 13,000 lacklustre supporters should be enough reason to change the nature of Test competition.
All of the above to be played in one window and the second window can be reserved for touring Tests and internationals.
The professional game is crying out for change and more equitable structures for players, supporters, fans and TV. Trying to develop the game purely from an international level has done little from the inception of the World Cup in 1987. Argentina is the only real success. Italy is not a real Test team and with better competition, this would be shown up.
A concerted effort to develop the game at Super/provincial level, bringing smaller nations, geographical areas with common cultures and professional franchises together, would revitalise a game that deserves so much more.
Author: Kieran Gleeson