Saturday, 15 November 2008


In the summer of 2007, I wrote, but couldn't sell, an article on the hypocricy of the International Rugby Board, whose 'world' (sic) cup forced minor countries (like the US or Japan) to play two matches in four days, then wait two and a half weeks to play another two matches in four days, while the bigger countries played a comfortable game each weekend. Then when they did play they were greeted with refereeing that interpreted the laws with far more leeway for the big nations, and much more strictly for the minnows. The inevitable result: lopsided matches that produced the sickening 'well-played' from the winners and our English commentators....

Last night Wales beat Canada by a 'disappointing' 34-13 before 55,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium (Australia was equally disappointed to beat Italy 30-20). But according to yesterday's Guardian, the Canadians had asked the Welsh for a small cut (50p per ticket) of the gate, which would have amounted to some £27,500, to help fund Canadian rugby, which, with a small playing group stretched over a huge country, has immense problems trying to put together elite and national teams. The Welsh, of course, said no, although (or perhaps because) they have to fork up £500,000 to get the All-Blacks to play them. That may seem a lot, but they will gross some £17 million from their four autumn internationals.

What makes it worse, is that Wales is touring Canada next summer, with the Canadians picking up all their expenses within the country. But the Welsh still have to get there, so they applied to the IRB for a grant from a contingency fund supposedly intended for 'developing' rugby nations, and got £70,000 to pay for their airfares. I suppose the argument was that paying for them to go to Canada would somehow help the Canadians more than giving the Canadians money.

Given that the rugby 'world' is rather pathetically limited to about eight first-class 'countries' (England, Scotland, and Wales count as three nations), which includes poorly-funded Argentina, whose game is amateur, and Australia, where it runs a poor third to league and Aussie rules among football for men, the IRB's intense focus on making more money for the big boys is shameful, but given their track record, hardly surprising.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, the NYTimes reports of an inner-city Washington DC school who field an all-black rugby team, (you can find it here) competing with the schools in the affluent suburbs. It woulod be encouraging to know that, were any of them to progress to the international level, their team, the US Eagles, would be treated about the same way they were when they first hit the all-white suburbs....

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