Brian Moore

From hum­ble be­gin­nings, the World Cup is grow­ing ever larger and the stan­dard of play get­ting ever bet­ter, but do play­ers have as much fun, asks a man who played in the first three tour­na­ments

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Contents - BRIAN MOORE

The World Cup is big­ger, the play­ers are bet­ter, the money has shot up, but do to­day’s stars have as much fun, asks the former Eng­land hooker, who played in the first three tour­na­ments

The Rugby Foot­ball Union voted against es­tab­lish­ing a Rugby World Cup. It knew, as did ev­ery­one else, that the game was head­ing to­wards pro­fes­sion­al­ism and it knew that such a tour­na­ment would pro­vide im­pe­tus to the al­ready in­ex­orable drive to a fully open sport.

No­body knew whether the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment, held jointly in New Zealand and Aus­tralia in 1987, would be a suc­cess and while it might have cap­tured the at­ten­tion of the Kiwi pub­lic, in Aus­tralia it gleaned lit­tle more than men­tions on the in­side back pages. Be­ing based in Syd­ney with Eng­land al­lowed me to wit­ness the in­dif­fer­ence of the me­dia and pub­lic alike – it would be right to say that rugby’s first World Cup was a heav­ily qual­i­fied suc­cess.

What the tour­na­ment did es­tab­lish was the four-year cy­cles of plan­ning which now dom­i­nate the rugby cal­en­dar; ev­ery­thing from that point had in its back­ground the fight for the Webb El­lis Cup.

It was the fact that the sec­ond World Cup was held in Eng­land, and Eng­land got to the fi­nal, that pro­pelled the event on to the back and ul­ti­mately the front pages of the press; it went from the fi­nal to the first men­tion on the gen­eral news pro­grammes. Rugby play­ers, who hith­erto had been known only to their com­mit­ted fans started to fea­ture in gen­eral sports col­umns and, in some cases, the gos­sip col­umns as well. Let’s not be de­mure about this, the ru­mours about Eng­land cap­tain Will Car­ling and the late Princess Diana did the game no harm at all from a pub­lic­ity an­gle.

What has hap­pened since the 1991 World Cup is a steady but in­eluctable in­crease in me­dia in­ter­est, at­ten­dances, spon­sor­ship and, im­por­tantly, the qual­ity of rugby. There is no rea­son to sup­pose that the im­pend­ing 2015 World Cup will not see all those as­pects in­crease still fur­ther, though this de­pends to a large ex­tent on Eng­land qual­i­fy­ing for the knock­out stages of the tour­na­ment.

It is not just the ad­vent of pro­fes­sion­al­ism that has aided the in­creased pro­file of rugby, though that has been a fac­tor. The

creation of 24 hour me­dia and the in­ter­net have been huge aids in pub­li­cis­ing the World Cup, high­light­ing its stars and vil­lains. The ubiq­uity of cam­era phones and the abil­ity to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion world­wide at the push of a so­cial me­dia but­ton has changed for­ever the re­la­tion­ship be­tween par­tic­i­pants and pub­lic. What was once a case of my word against yours over an in­ci­dent is no longer so when said in­ci­dent is cap­tured dig­i­tally.

To­day’s play­ers will en­joy sig­nif­i­cant re­wards for play­ing and suc­ceed­ing in the World Cup. While still a frac­tion of their foot­ball coun­ter­parts, earn­ing a six-fig­ure sum for a six-week tour­na­ment is not in­signif­i­cant. On the other hand they, par­tic­u­larly the Eng­land play­ers, will have to un­der­stand that this comes with sev­eral caveats and some are not pleas­ant.

It may shock some but there will be me­dia peo­ple tasked solely with find­ing out any dirty lit­tle de­tails that might dwell in play­ers’ past or present. To many this is un­pa­tri­otic but it is not even a ques­tion of that – for it to be un­pa­tri­otic would mean some thought was given to the no­tion in the first place. It is not; it is sim­ply a way of in­creas­ing cir­cu­la­tion against ri­vals.

For play­ers, it is not just a ques­tion of avoid­ing un­wanted head­lines by in­cau­tious posts on so­cial me­dia. Their fam­ily, friends and peo­ple with ten­u­ous as­so­ci­a­tions will also be on the radar to pro­vide de­tails for the next scan­dal. Lest you think the above fan­ci­ful, you should know that the Bri­tish Olympic As­so­ci­a­tion pro­gramme ‘First Games Home Games’ ad­dressed this point di­rectly and the Eng­land camp have been sim­i­larly briefed about the po­ten­tial pit­falls.

On the other side of the seem­ingly un­remit­ting me­dia and pub­lic at­ten­tion equa­tion is the glory and fame that awaits the vic­tors. Such is the de­sire for suc­cess that any achieve­ment of note will be widely broad­cast among the team’s fans and pub­lic. A form of dig­i­tal im­mor­tal­ity beck­ons, to­gether with the con­sid­er­able sat­is­fac­tion of be­ing able to say that for the brief time you were on this planet you were the best in the world at some­thing. Think on that and its im­port if you need any in­sight into what is of­fered.

The com­ing World Cup will be the big­gest and pos­si­bly the best yet but I still think the play­ers will not be able to have as much sheer fun as their pre­de­ces­sors.

What would the press to­day make of the in­ci­dent in 1991 when Mike Teague nearly got his toe blown off by the ac­ci­den­tal dis­charge of a gun on a shoot­ing trip? What would they make of the less than sym­pa­thetic ques­tion of Dean Richards im­me­di­ately there­after ‘Did you get the b------?’ We know what they and the twit­terati would make of it and of the Satur­day night when Peter Win­ter­bot­tom got so ham­mered he re­fused to leave his bed­room the fol­low­ing day be­cause of the stick he knew he would get.

Maybe such things are nec­es­sar­ily pre­cluded from pro­fes­sional rugby’s big­gest com­pe­ti­tion. Per­haps the stakes and the prize are too great to ac­com­mo­date frip­pery. If so, only ac­cept the com­pen­sa­tion if tak­ing the whole lot seems ad­e­quate. With­out that, the im­posed stric­tures, deny­ing so much, sud­denly do not seem a price worth pay­ing — if you had the choice.

What would the press to­day make of the in­ci­dent in 1991 when Mike Teague nearly got his toe blown off on a shoot­ing trip?

Way back when: Aus­tralia’s Tony Daly is tack­led dur­ing the 1991 fi­nal ver­sus Eng­land

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