Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For World Cup Rugby, it’s time to stop counting the costs

I’ve spent the last few days in France enjoying the Rugby World Cup and watching the Southern Hemisphere sides have the best of times. They are relishing this tournament. The big teams (New Zealand, South Africa and Australia) and the smaller sides (Tonga, Samoa and Fiji) are all reveling in pacey, free flowing rugby. The Northern Hemisphere sides seem mired in defensive, passionless, mechanical game plans where fear of defeat is prevailing over the lust for success. New Zealand will have a tricky Quarter Final to play against a Northern Hemisphere opponent, but then I believe we’ll have to beat Australia and South Africa to lift the trophy. That’s no easy feat, though probably easier than it is for the South Africans and Australians who have to beat New Zealand!

And of course, the 2011 tournament will take place in New Zealand. This will be big deal for a small country, and sweet revenge against all the big money and big countries who seem to be taking over the business of sport at the highest level. I’m a big believer in sport as a liberator for smaller nations and as a way to build sustainable self-esteem and wealth in smaller, underdeveloped countries. I’m also a big believer in countries hosting world-class tournaments. There’s lots and lots of talk about the costs of these tournaments to host countries, but just look at the way cities and countries can be transformed by a major sporting event. Auckland’s waterfront was developed and made world-class by the America’s Cup; Barcelona was dragged from average to the grooviest city in Europe through the Olympics; South Africa was brought back into the world by the 1995 Rugby World Cup; and the Beijing Olympics will, I hope, bring transparency to China. To top it all off, London’s East End will at last be developed and modernized through that city’s own upcoming Olympics.

I hope the International Rugby Board will maximize the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. To do that, I believe they need to:

  • Keep the current format of 20 teams. It is by far the best way to encourage the smaller nations to grow.
  • Add a plate tournament. Let’s make the long journey to New Zealand even more worthwhile for the Tier 2 Nations.
I’ll bet you anything you like that New Zealand will turn it on just as Australia did in 2003. I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that we Kiwis will make Rugby World Cup 2011 the most enjoyable event ever. Start spreading the word.


Susan Plunkett said...

Kevin said:

"I’m a big believer in sport as a liberator for smaller nations and as a way to build sustainable self-esteem and wealth in smaller, underdeveloped countries. I’m also a big believer in countries hosting world-class tournaments."

I wholeheartedly support this stance and applaud you for taking it.

I have a caveat point.

I completely agree that many global sporting events bring wealth and advantages for hosts. The Olympics - despite the obscene and mounting expense for opening and closing ceremonies et al - has done wonderful things for longer term sporting facility development in the host countries.

However, I'd like to see a major country acting the host ON BEHALF OF a small nominated nation or group of nations in some global comps. And marketed that way. It would be a twist on current practice and I think a positive social responsibility marker.

Shawn said...


Ah, I've been enjoying almost all the matches through Setanta, and watched the Eagles put on a pretty good show, live, today, although they did give the ball away too many times.

In one of your previous messages you mentioned the Eagles going pro in 2008 . . . please elaborate. |Send me a private e-mail if you'd like at

I wanted to meet you in Chicago, but I couldn't find you . . . next time I'll get your itinerary before a USA venue you're going to go to, if at all possible . . . like the iRB Sevens Tournament in San Diego next February . . . would love to talk about the possibilities.


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Piotr Jakubowski said...

I agree with the aspect as well.

South Africa benefited greatly from the Rugby World Cup in 1995. Only time will tell how they will benefit from the Football World Cup in 2010. I know I'm going!

On the other side of the matter, however, sometimes it may be hard to justify a developing country spending billions on hosting a sports event when there are many other problems plaguing that country. Although it may bring a one time inflow of people and may open some minds about that place in the future, I can definitely see a large crowd of underpriviledged people feeling left out by the government.

Tony said...

Nz is already getting ready for it if the re-named Saatchi & Saatchi house is anything to go by. Check out the lift at Passion & Pride House.

Kazakh Andy said...

Kevin, always good to follow your blog, and no surprise to hear you are in France. I fully endorse the comments on tournaments being positive catalysts for change, and I also 100% agree that small nations must be at the world cup. Already, since 2003, the gap seems to closing e.g. Ireland vs Georgia. I know, having been involved with rugby in small developing nations, that these teams and players are desperate to play the big boys, as that is the only way they can measure themselves and improve. The one big disagreement I have is that NZ should not be hosting the cup in the first place. The IRB are charged with developing the game globally. Hosting it in NZ where the sport ia already #1, and pumping more money back into NZ rugby, is not a strategy to grow the game globally. It is a step backwards, and will only widen the gap between NZ and the rest. The 2011 world cup should have gone to Japan, or even better, had they bid, to US, Russia/Georgia, Italy, Argentina, Scotland (!) etc. Those are the countries where a Rugby World cup can be a catalyst for change, and where rugby needs to be showcased. The carve up in Dublin, with its secret ballot, was a disgrace, and a dereliction of duty by the IRB.

Here's to a Scottish triumph in France, or failing that, a South African win with a Habana hat-trick in the final. I know I am down a case of SA wine after the Tri-Nations, but the case of red is looking more hopeful on the World Cup. Cheers. Andy

rian said...

Great post, thanks for sharing. As a South African living in the US, it always stings a little bit when people refer to my country as a "smaller, underdeveloped country". But, I do agree with your points. We might be small, but as we say over there, "our blood runs green" -- those green jerseys bind us together as a nation together in a pretty powerful way...

Kevin Roberts said...

Andy - One case down. One to go. Did you see our USA winger burn Habana last week? I was at Murrayfield for the ritual thrashing of the Celts. Hadden did the game and your country a disservice by playing his B-team.

Kevin Roberts said...

Tony - Ha! I like what they’ve done with the elevators.