In many ways the Rugby World Cup is still a transitional event. Each year Rugby Union gets further away from its traditional roots….as a sport played in English private schools, universities, by professional men such as lawyers and doctors and exported by the English to the colonies.
In its own lore, Rugby was invented at a private boarding school in Rugby, Warwickshire, when a young man lifted a ball during a football game and ran the length of the field to acore with the ball in his hands. All very mid-19th century (like Football-Soccer, Baseball and competitive sports). Thus the Webb-Ellis Trophy, to be awarded in six weeks time commemorates this event.
But there are other Rugby traditions, notably an amateur code, which preserved its poshness and exclusivity. Indeed when miners and ordinary folks started receiving expenses in the North of England, their Association was expelled and two rival codes emerged…Rugby Union remained amateur and 15 man and Rugby League went professional and 13 man.
Any good Rugby Union player who was tempted to go professional in League was banned for life from the amateur game. While the League game had a heartland in the North of England, Union was the establishment game and was played in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France in the northern hemisphere and New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the southern hemisphere.
The Five Nations (effectively a European Championship) and occasional tours from the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks was effectively the Rugby Union season, supplemented by club games which were sparsely attended.
But in the 1980s the posh classes…Margaret Thatcher was running Britain…and posh people discovered that money was as important as class and it can be no councidence that Union players were tempted by commercialism and cash. Professionalism was born. The smaller rugby nations, Ireland, Scotland, Wales had worried it would destroy their domestic game but the careful structuring of better club rugby around Europe…rather than England…actually improved standards.
The northern Five Nations Championship was expanded to the “Six Nations” bringing in Italy. But at heart the Rugby World is still dominated by the Big Eight…with Italy, Argentina and some others capable of the odd surprise result.
Even in 2015,it is likely that the quarter finals will feature seven of the Top Eight. While the four pools of five teams will have some interesting and competitive matches, the seeding means that the real action will begin at the quarter final stage. And the priority in the early stage is for the big teams not to slip up and get the best draw possible in the next stage.
The competition started last night. England beat Fiji in Pool A. This is the Pool in which one of the Big Eight will go out.
Pool A: England. Australia. Wales. Fiji. Uruguay. …..the biggest game in the Pool stages is likely to be England versus Wales. Wales are certainly capable of beating England but with home town advantage and their posh and unlikable supporters, I feel England will get thru with Australia.
Pool B: South Africa. Scotland. Samoa. Japan. United States……South Africa should make it without any problem. Scotland, will be hoping for no surprises against the less traditional nations.
The Winners in Pool A will play the Runners Up in Pool B. The Winners in Pool B will play the Runners Up in Pool A.
Pool C: New Zealand. Argentina. Tonga. Georgia. Namibia….New Zealand certain to go thru. And Argentina most likely to make it. But Georgia have surprisingly just beaten Tonga.
Pool D: France. Ireland. Italy. Canada. Romania……Ireland have never got past the Quarter Finals in any World Cup and should make it to the Quarter Final stage again. The big game in the Pool is France versus Ireland. It should determine who wins the Pool. Winning the Pool means avoiding the Winners of Pool C (most likely New Zealand) in the Quarter Final stage.
Notwithstanding Georgia just beating Tonga, the World Cup seems more about merchandising and money. While the TV commentators are jubilant at a surprise, they and the sponsors and kit manufacturers dont really want major surprises that would reduce revenue from sales of sports gear, beer, pizza or make the TV viewers switch channels.
Seven of the Big Eight will make the Quarter Finals. And while it would be nice, if Wales and Ireland got to the Semi Final stage….lets wait and see.
If I get nothing else from the tournament it has already provided the first occasion I have ever found myself shouting on Japan in anything!
It was strange.
Forty years ago South Africa was unpopular.
Twenty years ago…flavour of the month.
They seemed to go back to default position.
Around 1975 I worked with a man and he was violently anti Japanese. (He was not ex-soldier) but on one occasion he was told to stay away from the office building when a Japanese delegation was visiting another Dept.
I feel I should post this here as well (originally on Jude’s site) as it references your good self.
Irish rugby is probably the best success story in Irish sport in the last 10 years (3 championships and 5 European cups) and whatever the IRFU is doing with flags and anthems (and personally speaking I think they have got it about right) they have done a brilliant job in keeping the sport unified.
If someone had said 20 years ago that Casement Park(controversies permitting) would be redeveloped and be part of an Irish bid for the rugby world cup – they would have been locked up or might be best described by the term of choice of the esteemed blogger FJH a letsgetalongerist on speed.
…. and if anyone fecks up this major success story they deserve to be (metaphorically) kneecapped.
Thats broadly true.
It might well be that there is a fledgling Irish unity in the four provinces/new anthem/Commonwealth example. i am not comfortable with it but the future does not belong to my generation. I cant bind the future generations to my way of thinking.
Its not really “letsgetalongerism” as it might provide a way out.
the problem I have with “letsgetalongerism” is that there is no real policy behind it…it is just “getting along” and supporting a status quo.
Howler from the Torygraph – regarding Henderson and Best
I saw that. I have a funny feeling that Wales will win tonight.
Yes hopefully so… but I suspect it will be a very bad beating.
I wish I had followed thru and put the bet on.
I was in Portadown yesterday and forgot to go into the bookies. I dont do online betting and neither of my sons was here in the house yesterday.
Really England, with the resources …population and infrastructure available to them should be much more successful in the Northern Hemisphere than they have been. Maybe they have too many players to choose from.
Wales, Ireland, Scotland have a smaller pool of genuine talent but it means that there is a core of players that have a lot of caps and experience at this level.
The Rugby World Cup is about MONEY but unlike the FIFA World Cup there is a lack of real competition.
Thus Japan, ranked 13th in world beating South Africa (5th?) is said to be a shock and it is but the 13th ranked football team beating the 5th is not a shock.
There is still a traditional Top Eight (even if Argentina are capable of beating some of them) and Argentina and Italy and the Pacific Islanders are still considered second class.
based on rankings when Wales were ranked lower than Argentina, three of the traditional Big Eight are in the same pool …Australia, England, Wales….and even when I saw th draw earlier this year, I thought Wales had a reasonable chance.
Of course, Wales were weakened by injury before the start of World Cup and even picked up some more during the game last night…and their substitutions were enforced. eNgland made changes because they thoight the game was already won….English arrogance always works against them (the crowd is an unlovable bunch of Tory voters).
Wales were ultimately more committed, individually brilliant…Biggar, Williams and North….
This morning England will be kicking themselves for losing it.
i am kicking myself that I didnt get a bet on.
“Swing low sweet Harriet…took three men to carry her home” (the Two Ronnies).
Well FJH you were(deliciously) correct…………….what a win for Wales