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.)

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.

IRB Fumbles the Ball for Updated World Cup Hosting

According to the New Zealand Herald and (possibly, reports are kind of sketchy since the “official” remains unnamed) the International Rugby Board (IRB), the city of Auckland in Kiwiland might be selected over, well most of the rest of the country, to host more matches for the upcoming 2011 Rugby World Cup.

These additional matches come at the expense of the rebuilding Christchurch, which SuperSite fans, and anyone who takes the time to read the news in the last month or so, know took a serous amount of damage from a recent earthquake.

Instead of spreading the games around to attract travelers to other New Zealand venues, as well as show the Rugby Universe that the rest of the nation could pull together to help the potentially overtaxed Christchurch, the IRB short-sightedly decided to dump all of the games on Auckland.

Continue reading “IRB Fumbles the Ball for Updated World Cup Hosting”

Is This Team USA’s Year?

To do what, one asks?

To go all the way and win the Rugby World Cup, the deluded fan responds.

Well then. In that case:

No.

I love USA Rugby, I’d love nothing more than to see the Eagles captain hoist the William Webb Ellis trophy high before the vanquished. But there is no way in hell that’s going to happen in my lifetime – and since I have plans to live to be 150, that’s going to be a long time.

So no RWC championships for the US, but take heart Eagles fans – this could be the year the U.S. racks up a couple of wins in pool play, and might even squeak by with a World Cup 2015 prequalification slot (with a whole lot of luck!) I don’t see them making it into the quarters or beyond.

The Eagles are in pool C, which I don’t know if you can qualify as the “Pool of Death” or not, but you have Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the U.S. in this pool.  The U.S. beat Russia 39-22 in the recent Churchill Cup Tournament in the U.S., so we can probably look for a victory here. Australia is going to beat the U.S. like a brothel with back payments to the head pimp, and Ireland probably will as well, though by not as much.

The key match for the U.S. will be on Sept. 27, 2011 against Italy.  Italy is a growing rugby power in Europe – having competed for many years in the Six Nations tournament, facing off with Scotland, Wales, France, Ireland and England on a yearly basis.  However, they are also considered the lightweight team of the tournament, usually only racking up a win or two.  It would take some work, and some strong luck, but I think the U.S. might be able to pick off the Italians in 2011 and land a solid third place in pool play.

Third place won’t move the team on to the next round, but it will be a step up for a USA team that plays with a lot of pride, and has always set the bar at a realistic “We want to win a match in pool play” goal.

We’ve Come a Long Way Since ‘96

The New Zealand Herald reports that should the New Zealand All Blacks fulfill their destiny and win the 2011 Rugby World Cup (held in New Zealand, even) the NZ Rugby Union will pay NZ$ 100,000 to each player.

Quote:

The Collective Agreement between the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Players’ Association, which was formally ratified yesterday, sets in stone a payment of $100,000 to each member of the All Blacks squad should they win next year’s showpiece event.

Should they make the final at Eden Park and lose, they will receive $35,000 each. Just to prove there’s no such thing as a bronze medal in rugby, anything less than second equals $0.

As if the All Blacks needed any more incentive to want to win the World Cup.  Now if there’s a team that knows how to not squander the complete home-field advantage they will have in 2011, it’s the All Blacks.

But more importantly, it’s hard to believe that prior to 1996 rugby was still an amateur sport.  Moving into the professional era was one of the best things that rugby could do, it kept the best rugby players in the sport and they could finally earn incentives like this without having to worry about losing their playing eligibility.

South Africa: FIFA vs. Rugby World Cup

Graham Jenkins over at ESPN’s Scrum has a great post up looking at the difference in passion levels between the current 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 1995 Rugby World Cup which was also held in South Africa.

One of the money quotes:

Unlike the Springboks, Bafana Bafana have never been a major force in their sport – a fact that was underlined by their failure to progress from the group stages making them the first host nation to exit at the first hurdle. Despite the home side’s shortcomings, the tournament has already been heralded as a success and will no doubt still go on to leave a significant mark in history but with the vuvuzelas silenced to a certain degree and African interest hanging by a thread there is little chance that it will resonate like its rugby equivalent.

The ‘95 Rugby World Cup is a special one to me, it was the first time I had watched rugby on TV, after being involved in it for a few years at that point.  Somehow I stumbled across the listing a day or two before the matches began and spent many late nights and early mornings in front of the TV watching matches from Australia and South Africa through the quarterfinals, many of which might still be on tape at my mom’s house. (I don’t remember the semis or finals being broadcast, I think the station’s coverage ended at the quarters).

The energy behind the 95 RWC was definitely visible, even from thousands of miles away.  Part of it came from the returned standing of the South African Springboks, which had suffered during apartheid when many nation’s sports organizations boycotted them, and part of it came from the success of the Springboks, who eventually won the World Cup – as opposed to this year, when the South African soccer team was eliminated in the first round (a first for a host country I believe).

There are some parallels between South Africa hosting the Soccer World Cup and the ever present “proposed” United States hosting of the Rugby World Cup. Both nations are minor-league players in these proposed sports, and a lesson to come away from the World Cup this year would be that if the host country loses in the first round, support for the event in the host country will drop, possibly not dramatically.  But with rugby in the U.S., there isn’t much of a margin for error in support.  I’ll address this in a future post.

For now, let’s enjoy the ending of the round-ball’s Cup and start the buildup for 2011 in New Zealand!