Rugby World Cup ’15 Clipped by NFL?

According to this story from the Daily Mail, Wembley Stadium’s obligations to the National Football League have forced Rugby World Cup 2015 organizers to schedule only two RWC matches in the fabled stadium, instead of the eight matches that were originally planned for Wembley.

As the article states, that reduction in matches (along with a decision by Manchester United that Old Trafford was not to be used in the Rugby World Cup – because, you know, actual men playing on their pitch might tear it up a little bit and these primped and pampered soccer players might have to actually show some athleticism on the field, but I digress) left the Rugby World Cup organizing team scrambling to locate adequate stadia to hold the various matches. This also means that RWC 2015 ticket prices will probably be raised to hit the expected 80-million pounds that England had to guarantee to the International Rugby Board.

(Soon we’ll take a look at the sham that is the schedule of matches for Rugby World Cup 2015, and how the IRB screwed North America and Eastern Europe yet again. So much for wanting parity between rugby nations, and for encouraging “rugby growth” in North America. As usual, the IRB says one thing and does something completely opposite, in order to protect its monopoly on the game.)

So I have to admit something to the SuperSite nation (all 2 of you 😉 ) I’ve just finished watching the ’73 Barbarians vs. All Blacks match (for the 100th time or so) and, while a very nice piece of complete team play, I’m not convinced that Gareth Edwards’ try in the 4th minute deserves its title of “The Greatest Try of All Time.” Much like the U.S. Olympic Hockey team’s 1980 win over the Russians has become immortalized more for Al Michaels’ overhyping (“Do you believe in miracles??”), the never ending adulation for Edwards’ try seems to come from the fact that the announce team was hyped up on Meth as he scored.  Looking at the play of Gavin Hastings, Jonah Lomu, Ritchie McCaw or David Campese, many of their tries are just as exciting, if not as well lauded.

What do you think? Am I in the wrong? Was this in fact the “Greatest Try of All Time?”

Brian O’Driscoll, Injuries, and the “Club vs. Country” Debate

Ireland center Brian O’Driscoll might become the latest Rugby World Cup casualty to take an extended leave of absence from the rugby pitch.

After gutting through the Rugby World Cup, thanks in large part to cortisone injections according to ESPN Scrum, O’Driscoll, 32, is at risk of having to get surgery for an injured shoulder so he can play for RaboDirect PRO 12 team Leinster. According to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt:

“He’s a fairly precious commodity, BOD, so we want to make sure we don’t play him in the condition that’s going to affect him in the future and we look after him as best we can. Because if we can get him right, he’s a fairly handy fellah to have.”

This brings up the question of club vs. country once again. It’s considered the greatest honor for a player to be selected for their country, but in an age of professionalism teams have to ask how best to balance both commitments for players. These professional teams are paying thousands of dollars/pounds/euros for the services of these players,and have as much of a right to these players’ efforts.

If they aren’t available because of injuries sustained in the line of their international duty, then I’m sure many of these teams feel that steps need to be taken. Whether it’s the professional team being compensated part of their salary spent on the player by the country, or another agreement between the competition, teams and country.

I’m sure there are those who have a counter opinion, that national team matches are more important than professional team expectations. They might even wish to point to soccer or basketball as an example, that it is possible to play for both team and nation.

As anyone who has ever been on the rugby pitch knows, rugby is a more physical sport than either of those two sports. Placing the same expectations on a rugby player that fans might have on a soccer player are more likely to wear down the rugger, increasing the chances for additional injuries.

Professional rugby players already have a too-long season to contend with, but to pile on additional national team duties, or visiting international tours on top of that might be pushing these athletes to, or beyond, their physical limits.

A Dual-Use Rugby Office?

The New Zealand Rugby Football Union recently decided to open an office in Paris, ostensibly to capitalize on the popularity of the All Blacks in Europe following their Rugby World Cup win.

A secondary use for the new offices might be to keep track of all of the All Blacks, and other New Zealand ruggers, who keep getting targeted by certain European professional rugby competitions (I’m looking at you here, Frenchie) with huge contracts to leave Kiwi Nation.

Bonus Points at the World Cup? Really?? #rugbyworldcup

OK, please allow me to get this off of my chest.

Do we really need to have bonus points in Rugby World Cup pool play?

Really?

It’s really that important for you that your team (should you be lucky enough to be a fan of one of the Rugby Universe Power Teams) rack up 50 or so points on their opposition?

We all know what this is. It’s another subtle way for the Rugby Powers That Be to keep a lock on advancing to the quarterfinals and beyond at the RWC. I just finished checking out the South Africa v. Fiji match, where the Springboks, in classy fashion, dropped a 49-3 win over the Islanders. We all know the Springboks are one of the powers in this year’s world cup – as the defending champs it’s expected of them. Do we really need to be giving them, or the All Blacks or England, additional points for running up the score?

What if, just follow me here, what if one of the minnow teams beat one of the Rugby Powers at the World Cup in a close game, and then were kept out of advancing to the next stage because other teams in the World Cup gained bonus points by running the score up? That would be, for lack of a better word – bullshit.

Yes, the Rugby Powers that Be are the top teams in the world – we all know that. There’s no need to give them extra points because they are able to run up the score.  There just isn’t.

How Fare the Mighty Eagles Thus Far? #rugbyworldcup

The Rugby World Cup continues to charge on, a couple of weeks into the extravaganza that happens every four years. The United States National Team has a lot of pride on the line if they want to show improvement over their 2007 World Cup nightmare, where they lost every match. They are two games in, and surprisingly the Eagles have shown more than just a strong heart and a desire for “a good showing.”

Ireland 22, USA 10

It’s hard to tell which narrative is more true in this game – was the U.S. that inspired, able to hold #8 Ireland to a 12-point victory, or was the Irish play really that off, not able to score more than 22 points against a nation that is still (as I’m sure many rugby nations are truly thrilled with) just a small moon in the great Rugby Universe.

(“That’s not a moon… it’s a space station.”)

As is usually the case, it’s a little bit of both.

The Eagles, led by captain Todd Clever on the openside flank, anchored a pesky defense against Ireland in the first half, holding Ireland to a 10-0 lead at halftime despite the fact that Ireland’s forwards dominated the U.S. at each set peace. Clever was a one-man swarm around the ball in the first half, stuffing Ireland’s rucks and backing up U.S. runners on the rare occasions they had the ball.

But this was the case where a team that had more time training together would eventually prevail – Ireland’s pace, fitness and working as a unit eventually ground down the U.S. pack, who fought this losing battle almost completely inside their own side of the pitch in the second half, and the three Irish tries came out of forward play.

USA 13, Russia 6

This tenacious US defense continued when they faced Russia.  In their most recent game, the Eagles squeaked away their third victory ever in the Rugby World Cup with a 13-6 win over the mighty Russian Bears – the lowest scoring World Cup match since Australia’s 12-6 win over England in the ’91 finals, and a far sight from New Zealand’s 145-17 victory over Japan in the ‘95 World Cup.

“Delighted with the win and the performance of the team. We retained our intensity and work rate from the Ireland game. We knew Russia would play to the very end, and we prepared for that eventuality. We had Russian under pressure on numerous occasions, but they defended really well and made us work for every score we got,” said Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan.

The only try of the game came from Eagles’ scrumhalf Mike Petri, off of a pass from first five Roland Suniula and who crossed the try line 20-minutes into the game, carrying a Russian tackler on his back.

This was an important game for both sides, not just because it was seen as the only game that either team might win, but also because the two teams are ranked right next to each other in the IRB World Rankings – with the USA ranked 18th and Russia 19th. In recent matches where the US was ranked just above their opponent, such as Georgia and Tonga, the US came out on the losing side, then flipping places with their opponent.

The Eagles now have to prepare for their toughest match of the tournament, their Sept. 23 showdown with Australia in Wellington. A game that the United States is not likely to be competitive in, while Australia is expected to rest some of their starters.

USA Captain Given OK to Play

Todd Clever, the captain for the U.S. National Rugby team was cleared today after being cited by Rugby World Cup officials for dangerous tackling and dangerous charging in the USA’s victory over Russia on Sept. 15. You can read the particulars of the case here, but it appears that the contact in question was incidental and there was no malice involved, so Clever has been cleared to play for the USA in their remaining Rugby World Cup matches.