Why on earth is the itinerary for The Rugby Championship (TRC) largely the same year on year?

Longtime community commenter Dusty Pink raised this point recently; “TRC has had – more or less – the exact same schedule since the start. Why don’t they mix it up? How fair is it that NZ and OZ always start with 3 of the first 4 matches at home?

Is it fair? What would be fair? And why on earth don’t they mix it up?

Itinerary overview

For making the point, I will outline the All Blacks schedule in 2012-2014, 2016 and 2017. And as you will see, it is basically identical each season. Presumably, the other teams are very very similar as well. 2015 is left out as it is a World Cup year in which there are only three games played by each team in TRC.

R1 2012 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2012 v Australia, Auckland
R3 2012 v Argentina, Wellington
R4 2012 v South Africa, Dunedin
R5 2012 v Argentina, La Plata
R6 2012 v South Africa, Johannesburg

R1 2013 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2013 v Australia, Wellington
R3 2013 v Argentina, Hamilton
R4 2013 v South Africa, Auckland
R5 2013 v Argentina, La Plata
R6 2013 v South Africa, Johannesburg

R1 2014 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2014 v Australia, Auckland
R3 2014 v Argentina, Napier
R4 2014 v South Africa, Wellington
R5 2014 v Argentina, La Plata
R6 2014 v South Africa, Johannesburg

2015 was a World Cup year, and there are only three matches.

R1 2016 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2016 v Australia, Wellington
R3 2016 v Argentina, Hamilton
R4 2016 v South Africa, Christchurch
R5 2016 v Argentina, Buenos Aires
R6 2016 v South Africa, Durban

R1 2017 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2017 v Australia, Dunedin
R3 2017 v Argentina, New Plymouth
R4 2017 v South Africa, Albany
R5 2017 v Argentina, Buenos Aires
R6 2017 v South Africa, Cape Town

TRC Fairness?

The question Dusty Pink put forward was:

How fair is it that NZ and OZ always start with 3 of the first 4 matches at home?

If you look at TRC as a standalone competition then I am of the opinion that it is most definitely not fair on South Africa and Argentina. Year in, year out, they are on tour early and playing games away from home is historically harder than at home.

I hear the argument already… “but they play away eventually“.

Yes, the All Blacks and Wallabies do play away eventually, but by then the competition is often decided or out of reach for other teams. Even the incredible 2013 match in Johannesburg only required the All Blacks to score four tries to win the Championship. They didn’t need to win the game.

I find that by the time the fourth round is completed teams are asking if they need to “blood new talent”. They ask this because the competition is by and large already decided. This is not right. You would not have teams continually asking this in the Six Nations. The tournament is too important.

Taking TRC to Argentina has been a God send to world rugby. There just needs to be a bit more thought go into the itinerary. By Gobierno de la Ciudad, via Wikimedia Commons
Taking TRC to Argentina has been a God send to world rugby. There just needs to be a bit more thought go into the itinerary. By Gobierno de la Ciudad, via Wikimedia Commons

November Fairness?

The other side of the argument is how does this continual travel at the backend of the competition impact a team’s performances in November?

There is no doubt that the All Blacks often struggle in November. And for South Africa, it is a relatively easy flight to Europe. Virtually no time zone change.

For both the All Blacks and Wallabies, they travel around the globe in the final two rounds, have a brief rest, play a money-generating third Bledisloe Cup match and then head to Europe. Surely this impacts performance. The coaches and players remind us often that it does. Why not mix it up?

Ireland celebrating their historic victory in Chicago. November is becoming increasingly difficult for the All Blacks. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ireland celebrating their historic victory in Chicago. November is becoming increasingly difficult for the All Blacks. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Alternative schedule

The following is a simple alternative to rolling out the same schedule year-on-year.

R1 2016 v Australia, Sydney
R2 2016 v Australia, Wellington
R3 2016 v Argentina, Hamilton
R4 2016 v South Africa, Christchurch
R5 2016 v Argentina, Buenos Aires
R6 2016 v South Africa, Durban

R1 2017 v Argentina, Buenos Aires
R2 2017 v South Africa, Cape Town
R3 2017 v Australia, Dunedin
R4 2017 v Australia, Sydney
R5 2017 v Argentina, New Plymouth
R6 2017 v South Africa, Albany

There will always be give and take with anything, but to have the same schedule year on year almost seems lazy. I appreciate that travel will always be a real issue with teams in the Southern Hemisphere, but surely there is a simple alternative. Let us know your thoughts.

Author: Steven Prescott

I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.

3 COMMENTS

  1. One possibility is to make it more into a tournament over a three/four weeks period, hosted each year by a different country. You could even have a final game between the top two teams. This would also offer the opportunity of adding Fiji or Japan. I realize this is a pipe dream.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I love this article, no coincidence that we get the same result year in year out. It’s not good for the teams confidence and in the long term it’s not good for rugby as it takes the the competitiveness out of the game. They need to address this urgently or even pull out from the competition.

    • Thanks a lot for this comment Elroy Beauzec. I’m really pleased you enjoyed this. You’re right, there is no coincidence that we get the same results year on year. Cheers

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