The Other Chaps!

Inaugural meeting of the IRB's founding fathers

These are without doubt, post-prandial musings, basking in the satisfaction of Ireland’s win against the Wobblies, but the Mole cannot help wonder what the RWC would be like if several other nations had been extended the same, splendid treatment that we in Ireland have acquired from the IRB.

Due to our original colonial status, Ireland was amongst the founding Nations of the IRB, alongside such former colonies as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The Brits then had a Civil Service which was run by “chaps” with a sense of fair play and a Corinthian ethic, unlike modern sports administrators – as represented by Sepp Blatter, Jole Havelange and possibly even our own Pat Hickey.

Their logic in those far-off days was that if the chaps played to the Rules – although they invariably called them Laws – they deserved to have the right to a voice at the top table, assuming of course that they kept a civil tongue in their head and could hold their drink after they finished the jerky that was served in the Club. They should, of course, always be represented by a couple of chaps who didn’t have to work for a living, but were usually solicitors, accountants or headmasters and therefore understood that where a chap came from was far more important than how much was in his bank account.

However, the Mole strays from his theme. Imagine if the chaps from Argentina, Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Romania, Russia or even Tonga had spoken the Queen’s English or understood the Laws or better still, lived next door. Had that happened, the founding fathers might:

  • Have agreed to schedule them to play against at least two teams in the IRB top ten rankings ever year – possibly in the ‘November window’; or,
  • Ensured that every Nation other than the Host would have to play in a qualifying competition for the RWC, run over a two year period and played in the ‘June window’ annually; or,
  • Ensured that a 5-match, three week, Lions, French, Springbok or All Blacks tour took place to that country, including Provincial fixtures, at least every five years, with a Northern Hemisphere country filling the fifth year; or,
  • Ensured the entry of at least one of their (professional) Club teams to play in either the Super 15, or Pro12, or the Currie Cup, every year; or,
  • Organised a Churchill Cup type tournament every year for at least 8 countries in either June or November with full IRB availability regulations applied to all  players playing in Professional Clubs across the world i.e. absolute availability with no exceptions e.g. Isa Nacewa, if you won’t play for your country, you can’t play for a Club during the same window;

Yes, just imagine what an upset that might have caused. A chap might as well have been told there was no Gordon’s available for his G&T – just unthinkable! It would have been a rehash of that time when the King of Tonga plowed through the biscuit-tin at a solo midnight feast.

And yet, some of these steps could be the way to unlock the potential of rugby to become a truly worldwide game. A way to ensure that, not just the Seven’s version, but the Fifteen-a-side game could really attract the interest and audience that it is worthy of. There is no doubt that some of the contests that have been seen in the first fortnight of RWC2011 have proven that the game has the potential for expansion and development.

Games such as that played between France and Canada, England and Argentina, Georgia and Scotland, Wales & Samoa, Fiji and France and certainly Tonga and Canada have amply demonstrated that the skills exist in every Nation playing in RWC (and probably far beyond) to be worthy of development and the experience of regular international competition which will benefit the spread of the game within a decade.

But surely the chaps in the IRB know that already!


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