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Taking Rugby World Cups to America at the expense of actual rugby nations is harmful

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

No-one’s ever going to cry a river for New Zealand.

Rugby fans the world over seem pretty tired of us, frankly, and are actually rather heartened by the All Blacks’ form of late.

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Should Ireland tip the All Blacks over in their upcoming three-test series, you imagine fans far and wide will rejoice.

But as I look at the venues selected to host the 2027 and 2031 Rugby World Cups, I can’t help feeling a pang or two on behalf of my fellow Kiwi battlers.

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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ

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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ

I can understand, even applaud, the idea of Australia being awarded the 2027 tournament by World Rugby, but I’m afraid I don’t see any justification for sending the following edition to the United States.

I get commerce and I get World Rugby’s entitlement to take these events wherever they like, but I’m disappointed that this potentially signals that we won’t see the sport’s pinnacle event staged on these shores again.

Yes, we’re little. Yes, we’re far away. And, yes, we probably can’t promise to return World Rugby a great dividend.

But New Zealand have been excellent Rugby World Cup hosts in the past and I honestly don’t get the idea of trying to take the game to new territories.

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If those of us who are steeped in the sport often find the game itself confusing, you can bet your bottom dollar the Americans won’t have a clue what’s going on.

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Rugby is a niche sport and there’s actually not a lot wrong with that. Few nations play it to a genuinely competitive level and, even in those countries that do, interest can be confined to private school types.

We’re not going to take the world over and, actually, I don’t even think we should try.

The United States are never going to be any good. Gary Gold, who is an excellent operator, coaches the national team now and we hear talk that Warren Gatland might do in the future.

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Whoopee.

You can have all the consultants and technical gurus you like, but if you don’t have the playing cattle you’ll never achieve anything. America doesn’t and no amount of World Cup-hosting rights will change that.

How about we actually look after the nations that do play and like the game, such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, rather than nations that never will?

That’s right, money.

If the football World Cup can go to Qatar, then rugby can go anywhere too. So long as the hosts are happy to pay.

Sure, the Fijian Drua are making up the numbers in Super Rugby Pacific. But do their fans care?

No, they just came out in their droves when the team finally got to play a game in Suva.

But those people, be they players or fans, aren’t important to World Rugby, because they can’t markedly improve the bottom line. Let’s throw money and resources at the United
States in the hope that rugby will one day become as popular as volleyball, lacrosse, bull riding or ten pin bowling.

Fat chance.

Time and time again, rugby sells out its heartland. It alienates those it already has, in the hope of enticing somebody newer.

Take World Cups to America, China, Korea, Dubai, wherever you like. Just don’t be surprised or offended when folk in actual rugby nations lose heart and interest.

I’ve rarely been more proud to be a New Zealander, than when we hosted the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

To see the way fans in Palmerston North and Napier turned up to nothing games between nobody teams spoke volumes for our love of the game. To see the way supporters from Argentina, Ireland, Scotland and France were embraced said plenty about what a welcoming and tolerant country we can be when we try.

So many New Zealanders were invested in every step of that tournament because the game itself is so ingrained in our psyche. It’s part of the everyday rhythms and conversations of our lives and why world cups do so well here.

I’ll have to cherish those memories, because who knows if we’ll ever see the tournament here again.

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Comments

13 Comments
k
karin 795 days ago

SOUTH Africa will never host a rugby world cup again . No one would come . They are afraid they will be raped murdered, mugged hijacked , drive into potholes, . Stuff stolen from hotels, . World rugby knows this .. South Africa my ass .

m
matt 795 days ago

Sounds like the thinking of someone who has run Australian Rugby (aka old boys club) for the last 2 decades.

If you break further into the US (already the fastest growing sport in the US) and take a fraction of the population, it means more eyes, opens up new sponsors, inevitably more money which in turn helps world rugby and other unions. No brainer

S
Sebastian 795 days ago

This is as about “gatekeeping” as it gets. Sure let’s keep the rugby world small and only allow some nations to play this great game we all love so much. Rugby has been such a large part of my life in the USA and it’s been the most consistent thing in the last 12 years I’ve been playing. Are you trying to tell me that by choosing to actively keep it out of smaller tier nations that its going to make rugby better? What about the rugby world in better? The author needs to get a clue on life.

K
Kubie 796 days ago

So you’re saying that no other nation deserves to grow in rugby like NZ did in 1840? Because before that no one in the country knew what rugby was. It took another nation bringing their sport to the country to make the All Blacks what they are today. No other nation deserves the same treatment?
As an American rugby player I’m incredibly insulted that you Kiwi’s feel somehow like you own the sport. Rugby changed my life and has continued to do so for the past 20 years. I’ve seen the sport grow in this country with more and more people playing it and watching it and understanding that it’s the greatest most inclusive sport in the world. Hosting the World Cup is an honor and I’m excited and proud my country has the opportunity to do so because it expands the game and opens the glory of rugby up for a whole new audience.
So I’m sorry that you’re disappointed that you don’t get another chance to host the cup (which would be your third time by the way) and that you’ve somehow been cheated living in a nation where rugby is the #1 sport and host the best team world while we other nations who love rugby struggle over here to get a foothold at improving our game. For someone who speaks about rugby being inclusive, you’re awful narrow minded.

J
Julius 796 days ago

Because of people like you Rugby still being unknown. Thanks.

J
Julius 796 days ago

Your mind is small.

C
CRZ38L 796 days ago

So many contradictions in this article where do I start.

Firstly that the RWC should only be held in 'Rugby' nations, well the 2019 RWC in Japan was amazing. Yes Japan does play rugby but they certainly aren't a tier one nation and being there to witness the atmosphere certainly was worth it.

Secondly, that Fiji or Tonga should be able to host a RWC, well I'm pretty sure that the author knows, that these countries just simply do not have the facilities or funds to host a professional tournament.

Thirdly, a RWC in the USA in 2031 will no doubt be an amazing experience. Rugby is slowly building and in just shy of ten years, the attention should have built nicely for those living in the US.

Lastly, has NZ even applied to host any future RWCs? Look how long it has taken for Australia to earn the right to host another. In fact if there's any country that should feel agrieved, it's South Africa, not New Zealand.

S
Stephen11 797 days ago

Delusional. NZ is an outstanding rugby nation and a beautiful country, but a tiny island in the middle of nowhere in commercial terms. As a rugby fan from a “tier 2” country I am tired of anglo-Saxon commentators thinking that the port is theirs. We want rugby to expand, to get to new and exciting markets, while fostering the game in those nations where it is already popular-ish. If the rise of Chile, USA, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain and Japan makes you feel threatened, I am very sorry. NZ does not own rugby, although I understand why you may think so given it has already hosted two World Cups (more than 20% of the total).

Rugby fans come in all shapes and sizes and are not restricted to “private schools”. Take a look at the diversity of the French rosters, the passion for the sport of working-class Fijians or the community rugby clubs in Patagonia.

You can convince yourself that rugby revolved around NZ. But the rugby world will keep going forwards without you.

G
Greg 797 days ago

NZ has already hosted RWC twice & shouldn't host again until they have invested in decent rectangular rugby stadiums. I flew in to Auckland for RWC 2011 finals at Eden Cricket Park. What a huge disappointment that oval is. Never again.

Plus NZ is in a bad time zone for North American, UK / European, and African audiences.

There are many rugby nations who should host RWC before its NZ's turn again: Argentina, Italy, Japan, Ireland spring to mind.

New Zealand: go to the back of the queue!

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