WH AT Y O U S H O U L D B E T A L K I N G A B O U T T H I S MON T H
“Less IS more in international rugby”
WORLD RUGBY’S Brett Gosper stirred the proverbial pot last month, suggesting that rugby’s big unions were playing too many Tests. Next month all four home nations are playing Tests outside the official international window – with England v South Africa, Ireland v Italy and Wales v Scotland being staged on 3 November.
Yes, a ‘fourth autumn Test’ can be an important money-maker for unions, a big crowd boosting coffers, but at the same time it flies in the face of the continual talk of putting player welfare top of the rugby agenda.
Take Ireland v Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago, site of the famous Irish win over New Zealand. It should spark interest in the sport in the USA, but crossing the Atlantic twice in the space of seven days, arriving back in Europe less than a week before their Tests against Argentina and Georgia respectively, doesn’t chime with prioritising what’s best for players. Italy, in particular, will feel the pressure of delivering a big performance against Georgia given the debate around Six Nations relegation.
Then there are the Tests themselves. The reason for all the hype around the England v New Zealand fixture this November is because it’s the first time they have played each other in four years. There’s a rarity value there.
Ireland v Italy? Wales v Scotland? These teams play each other every year in the Six Nations, so another fixture doesn’t generate the same excitement.
Next year’s World Cup warm-ups are similar, with the same teams playing each other yet again. The Georgia v Scotland fixtures are arguably the most intriguing because they’re different.
Test rugby is the pinnacle but the market is at risk of becoming saturated and losing mystique. How about quality over quantity? As Gosper says: “There’s a growing belief less may be more.”
Play it againÉIreland and Italy meet in Chicago next month