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”

Rugby World - - FRONT ROW -

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

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