This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with reflection and anticipation. A flood of family descendants on Loose Pass home this week made a remark of actual rugby rather tricky. But it is perhaps ok, after all, this has been a year with a sufficient storyline to fill numerous columns when looking back. Who would have supposed, for example, that the England Rugby side would be under new leadership ahead of the Rugby World Cup? Even after another unsatisfactory Six Nations at the end of March, who would have supposed that?
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It remnants a source of permanent disbelief for Loose Pass of the Rugby Football Union’s capability that they either waited so long or, having done so, could not reproduce on the very clear realism of what Eddie Jones often noted: that the one time he had all his players composed for a continued period of training time he was able to navigate all manner of problems and reach the Rugby World Cup final?
The awkward task for Steve Borthwick
Steve Borthwick has been given an awkward task that could have been meaningfully less so had the RFU not procrastinated/mistrusted/knee-jerked itself into bringing the axe to Jones at what we reckon is exactly the wrong moment. Hopefully, he will succeed, as he is a fine chap and a brilliant coach.
As for Jones, it would be a fitting finish to his story was he be able, for example, to take on an optional role to Dave Rennie and help push Australia to glory, either against England Rugby Side or South Africa, who were universally acclaimed in 2019 but whose coach’s childish social media connections this year have done serious injury to the Springbok brand.
Who would have supposed the same fate would happen to Wayne Pivac too who would have thought that Warren Gatland would leave New Zealand Rugby Side and return to Wales, for that matter? Pivac took the Welsh job on at a time when the problems in the territory were much less apparent than they are now; generation Gatland II is now gone and there is valuable little young talent coming through, even less reserve with which to nurture it. Gatland is an expert at getting a lot out of very little; it is perhaps exactly this, not one of Pivac’s many assets, which led the WRU to also chop and change at an unusually complicated moment.
It was also a year we found a format talented of vitalizing the European Cup, with April noticeable by some epic two-legged ties. The Montpellier-Harlequins and Sale-Bristol clatters were unforgettable. Yet the organizers couldn’t even find a way to deliver us any more of that: instead, we have a total hash of a pool round where nobody quite understands who is playing where and why, where genuine peril is in short supply, with debilitated sides all over the place and the likelihood of at least one side winning only one out of four games and still finding themselves in the round of 16.
In detail, by some distance, the most faultless tournament seemed to be the Women’s Rugby World Cup, epically won by New Zealand in a finale that could quite easily be in the top one for Match of the Year. A simple format, and maximum competitive integrity, were brought. Is it really beyond EPRC to organize this?
State of club rugby in England
Yet all those tests pale into unimportance when it comes to events at the club level in England. When not one, nonetheless two of England’s premier clubs stop to exist despite the seam-bursting explosion of games in the calendar, when Wales can no longer afford to offer new agreements to national players and is seeing cutting the number of its areas from four to three, there is something wrong with the over-all working model.
Then if 2022 was more of a test than a triumph, 2023 promises triumphs abundantly. With the mutilating soundings and beliefs of top officials anyhow, the Rugby World Cup 2023 promises to be rich in French pizzazz off the field, and rich in rivalry on it. There are two pools from which four sides could convincingly qualify, as well as the admission of a new member of the Rugby World Cup membership pool.
If rugby in North America seems to have stammered, for now, in South America, there is a rich vein of incipient talent from other countries to Argentina. In Europe too, the perfections in Portugal and Spain, not to mention Georgia and Italy, are talented for the game’s longer-term growth and future more talented and more stable-looking than ever earlier. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Rugby World Cup tickets for the France Rugby World Cup at the best prices. Rugby fans can buy Rugby World Cup Final Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.
Despite many a sigh about TMO strikes and a plethora of discussions about protocols, there does appear to be better constancy in presiding and the administration of head interaction. Whether that has resulted in lightening the shadow of long-term brain injury because of collisions is still very much up for debate, but directness as a starting point looks to be within reach. And if the game itself seems more stop-start at times, the correctness and quality of the moments of action have occasionally been better than ever earlier.
2023 offers a wealth of chances. There will, we hope, be a choice made on a long-term global fixture calendar. We have to hope that our managers understand that we are now obviously at the point where the athletes are exhausted, where the resource is often being wasted on fanciful notions, where television coverage is soaked, and where the vanilla advertising gloss has covered up the essence of the game too much.
Meaningless matches do not appeal
More money may come, nonetheless, few of us would want that at the spending of full stadia, such has appeared to be the trend. Endless seasons with meaningless matches do not appeal, conflicts between national sides and club teams even less so, and resistant competition formats least of all. A good choice for a well-integrated, clearly-tiered global calendar would be a landmark moment; it may well be the most significant decision the game’s management will have made since determining to pay players openly back in 1995. It must not go wrong.
We also have a clear chance to capitalize on the other game’s mistakes in choosing dodgy Rugby World Cup hosts, a chance to have one of the world’s greatest-ever sporting events. The waters there have already been dirty by the office scandals, but that may mean little if the hosts bring as we know they can.
Earlier than, a myriad of other stories. How will the new coaches fare in the Six Nations? How will South African teams fare in the European Cup? Are New Zealand and Australia done? Is England’s top flight going to be shaken up further? Will Wales survive their financial crisis? Will rugby get itself through its challenges as the professional game nears its 30th year? Buckle up, boys and girls, Rugby World Cup 2023 will be quite a ride.
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