Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Rugby union Sport

Can the Rugby World Cup survive and thrive in unfamiliar territories?

International sports are constantly evolving. In a little over 13 weeks, the upcoming Six Nations championship will begin and the worldwide rugby event is already progressing. The 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia may seem far off, but it will arrive sooner than anticipated.

While Paris’s hotel and bar managers tally their earnings (if anyone from Guardian accounting is viewing this, we have kept track of all our mineral water expenses), it is important to also consider and plan for the future. And as always, to contemplate how the World Cup experience could be enhanced in the future, rather than just copying and pasting from past promotional materials.

This situation is currently unfolding to a certain degree. Rugby Australia is fully aware that they have been given a valuable chance and is eager to take advantage of their golden opportunity, which includes a British & Irish Lions tour in 2025 and a women’s World Cup in 2029. It has been confirmed that the tournament will now include 24 teams instead of 20 and will be organized around a “hub” model to alleviate some of the logistical challenges faced in France.

The upcoming event is expected to be quite impressive, and there is already an established example. The tournament in 2003 was well organized and showcased a lot of exciting rugby matches. This time, with the pool draw happening closer to the actual event, there is a positive outlook, as long as the Wallabies can put together a competitive team before then.

The event will not be innovative or groundbreaking. In rugby union, there is a tendency to stick with the familiar and be wary of new approaches. The typical initial concern is whether a new concept will bring enough profit. Then, if the potential answer is positive, the next question is how much will I personally benefit?

As highlighted in the newly unveiled Nations Cup structure, which safeguards the top 12 countries for the next ten years, this method does not effectively promote the sport on a global scale. Out of the 10 World Cups that have taken place so far, only one, held in Japan in 2019, was not organized by a dominant rugby nation.

It was hailed as a big step forward, therefore, when World Rugby awarded the men’s 2031 tournament and the subsequent women’s equivalent in 2033 to the US. America is not a rugby hotbed as yet but crack the code and, in the view of the former Eagles captain Dan Lyle, a World Cup there clearly has potential. “We don’t even need people to travel because there are so many expats in America. And you’ll be talking 50,000 at each game. Everyone wants to be part of something that’s unique and authentic.”

There is a significant issue that needs to be addressed, symbolized by the American flag. While the idea of an American World Cup is appealing, there are underlying issues that need to be addressed. The USA Eagles did not qualify for the last World Cup and the national team has not gained widespread support from the nation. This makes it difficult to attract large corporate sponsors who have the financial resources to support the project, especially with the current economic downturn.

There is growing criticism on both sides of the Atlantic. Is it truly achievable? What if the US continues to struggle in organizing and performing in four years? The success of the World Cup is crucial for funding other aspects of the sport worldwide. There is no room for failure, especially from a high-profile American team.

Is there another option that doesn’t involve a humiliating retreat or a return to a country with many stadiums, such as England? It is rumored that Spain, Italy, and Portugal are considering a joint bid to host the 2035 men’s Rugby World Cup in the Euro-zone. Imagine the possibilities with a list of potential match venues including Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, San Sebastián, Lisbon, Porto, Rome, Milan, Genoa, and possibly Naples. Picture a final match at Camp Nou with 100,000 passionate fans and thousands of traveling supporters, all broadcasted during prime time on European television. Olé!

If rugby were to happen, it would immediately be viewed with more enthusiasm. It may even motivate other prominent rugby organizations to take action. For instance, why does the British & Irish Lions only compete in Test series in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa on a repetitive cycle? Could they not also tour the Americas at some point?

Skip over the advertisement for the newsletter.

One can have immediate enjoyment by creating a potential travel plan. Competitions against Canada and a team of top players from Major League Rugby in Vancouver and Chicago, followed by a match against the US Eagles in New York? Then, traveling to South America to play against Brazil (ranked 26th in the world), Chile, and Uruguay, ending with three matches against Argentina? The experience of proudly holding the anthem badge would make the trip worthwhile.

Nate Augspurger runs forward on his way to a try for the USA Eagles against the All Blacks in October 2021

Not everyone will be onboard with this idea. Agustín Pichot, for instance, is not completely convinced that it will be a groundbreaking move. “I would love for the Lions to visit South America. However, if they only come every 16 years, what impact will it really have?” He brings up a valid argument. But if rugby continues to follow the same patterns, how will it ever evolve?

  • This is a snippet from our weekly email about rugby union, called the Breakdown. You can sign up by visiting this page and following the steps.

Source: theguardian.com