Nick Farr-Jones
Nick Farr-Jones Getty Images

World Cup needs a change

NOW that the dust is settling on the pool matches of the seventh edition of Rugby World Cup, we can examine the many highlights on and off the field.

The now-departed smaller rugby nations strutted their stuff and expressed their often unique styles proudly on the world's largest stage.

I particularly feel for the Scots and Samoans. They both played courageous and passionate rugby and deserved to be around this tournament for at least another week.

Which brings me back to a suggestion I think I had way back during the playing of the Rugby World Cup in 1999. Generally, the format for our major global event works well, including the way teams qualify to join in the party every four years.

But if there is clearly a better way to do things which would have multiple benefits, then let's bring it on as soon as possible.

That said, change is never that easy with the powers that be in rugby, particularly when the suggestion comes from outside their headquarters in Dublin.

My proposal relates to just one of the 48 matches that make up the World Cup.

It is the play-off for third. I suspect that perhaps with the exception of Argentina, who in 2007 turned over (yet again) France in the match in Paris, not one of the other 11 teams who have contested this match had any desire to be there.

The rationale for the game in the inaugural World Cup of 1987 was so that Rotorua could host a match. The New Zealander, who along with our Sir Nicholas Shehadie, was most responsible for the creation and executing of the first event was Dick Littlejohn who was at the time Bay of Plenty rugby chairman.

NZRFU chairman Ces Blazey wanted to reward Littlejohn for the hard yards he had trodden and decided the way to do this was to devise another match to be hosted by the Bay and who better than the losing semi-finalists.

I was in that Wallaby team that lost to Wales back in 1987.

Every person to a man that day wished they were in the showpiece at Eden Park. By the time we played, the disappointment of losing the semi had not subsided.

So here is a suggestion that can reward outstanding players in the pool matches, involve a match where players will want to take part and ensure a spectacle that will enthral rugby lovers around the world.

Play a Barbarian-style game comprising a team from the northern hemisphere against the southern hemisphere. Pick 22 guys from the 12 teams departed and throw in a scattering of the finalists who have since lost. Have the guys in typical Baa Baa style wear the socks of their respective nations. And have the captain of the team coach the team with instructions simply to have some fun.

I can assure you the result would be far from the drab dour rugby that has historically marked the third versus fourth play-off. Not a hard decision really but don't hold your breath.


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