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Rugby bosses promise fairer World Cup schedule for the little guys

Small nations complained bitterly during the 2011 World Cup that the timetable was skewed towards the game’s traditional superpowers who had longer rest periods.

Image: Alastair Grant/AP/Press Association Images

THE INTERNATIONAL RUGBY Board said today it has revamped the 2015 World Cup match schedule to stop giving top nations an unfair advantage by allowing them a week’s rest between games.

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper also said he had moved to clamp down on clubs preventing players from smaller nations attending the tournament, although he admitted it was a difficult problem to solve.

Small nations complained bitterly during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand that the timetable was skewed towards the game’s traditional superpowers because their matches were scheduled at the weekends to maximise television audiences.

This gave them six or seven days to recover, while the less high-profile sides often had to play midweek and weekend matches, giving them as little as three days between matches, before a longer break.

Gosper said the timetable for the 2015 tournament in England, due to be released in late April or early May, had been altered to fix the problem.

“There’s very strong fairness in terms of rest periods and so on. It will be the same for all teams,” he told reporters. “It will be far more equal compared to the last World Cup.” New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew backed the move, saying it was a question of fairness.

“We asked for it,” he said. “We thought that it was unjust that the small unions were asked to play a critical event with shorter (rest) times than our games, so tier one nations made that request at the end of the last World Cup.”

Gosper said the IRB was also working to address concerns raised by smaller nations, particularly in the Pacific, about European clubs preventing their players from participating in world cup tournaments. He said the IRB recently held a meeting on the issue, attended by representatives from the English and French leagues, and warned clubs they were obliged to release players and could face sanctions if they refused to do so.

© AFP, 2013

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