IRB = Apartheid

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    Simon Dickson

    So now the Six and Tri Nations teams want to set up their own biennial series (with Argentina involved) that will further exclude the rest — even Fiji who technically finished 5th at the RWC, and double RWC Q-finalist Samoa — so that the gap between the haves and the have nots will continue to grow and make a greater and greater farce out of the money-spinning world cup where half the teams are only there to make up the numbers.

    Over the past few years we have seen Argentina’s attempts to join either the Tri Nations or the Six Nations come to nothing.

    Indeed, the Pumas, third at last year’s World Cup, could not even make it onto any of the Tri Nations teams’ schedules for 2008, though the Celtic nations featured prominently.

    We have seen Japanese anger at the IRB’s surprising decision to award the 2011 Rugby World Cup to New Zealand — which was deemed unfit to co-host the event just a few years ago.

    We have seen the coach of the Canadian team complaining about a lack of major opposition between World Cups.

    And we have the ongoing discontent among the Pacific Islands over player poaching, as well as lack of major tests.

    Fiji, like Argentina, outperformed the Celtic nations at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Samoa has made the World Cup quarter-finals twice. Yet they and Tonga have found it necessary to combine in an (apparently unsuccessful) attempt to get more high calibre opposition.

    It would seem that the eight foundation members who hold the balance of power on the IRB are only looking out for themselves. They are entrusted with running the global game but in reality, it seems, they are first and foremost concerned with serving the interests of their own national unions.

    At a meeting soon after the last World Cup, the IRB scrambled to ensure Wales and Ireland would not have to qualify for 2011. This required a rule change which, to my knowledge, has not been publicly explained.

    At the same meeting, however, they were unable to resolve Argentina’s continued exclusion from major competition.

    I am, of course, referring to the world body of a sport which has seen only one nation added to its elite European competition in the past 98 years.

    The premier Southern Hemisphere competition comprises a grand total of three nations (playing each other three times annually), though four others having been banging on the door for some time, including World Cup successes Argentina and Fiji.

    The eight foundation members of the IRB — New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France, England and the Celtic nations — seem, at best myopic, at worst self-serving and xenophobic.

    I cannot see the game moving forward until the balance of power is spread a little more evenly among the international board’s 90-plus members.

    I am not advotating FIFA-style democracy across the board, just yet. But there are worthy candidates for equality.

    Japan and America have substantially more players than the Celt unions. The former also has a lucrative professional competition.

    Italy has comparable players to the Celt unions and has joined the Six Nations, improving rapidly.

    Argentina and Fiji have comparable playing numbers to the Celt unions and, as stated, outperformed them at the World Cup. The latter also finished ahead of New Zealand and Australia.

    Canada and Romania have comparable playing numbers to the Celt unions and achieved very good results toward the end of the amateur period, including victories at Cardiff. They have fallen off the pace in the professional era, during which they have been neglected.

    Were these seven nations to gain parity with the eight foundation members of the IRB, and the six regional associations to retain their respective seats, the world body would take on an entirely new complexion.

    The centre of gravity would be removed from a handful of long-established unions, some of whom are no longer dominating forces in the game, and rugby might well begin to move forward as an international sport.

    Rugby humor — it’s DEAD funny!

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