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Save Our 'Minnows' Campaign



It is with great sadness that we, at The Rugby Forum, have heard about the plans to possibly reduce the number of nations participating in the IRB Rugby World Cup from 2011 onwards, from 20 to 16.

The Rugby Forum is an independent discussion forum, based around the great game of rugby that we love and support. We have more than 5,000 registered members from right across the globe. Because of our global nature, we feel it as nothing less than our duty to make our voices heard in objecting to this idea.

When the Rugby World Cup first started out in 1987, the objective was to grow the game towards a more global market. In that aspect, the Rugby World Cup has been a major success story. We`ve been able to see sides that were basically just making up the numbers in 1987, challenge for higher honours on the global stage. Teams like Argentina and Fiji, which were no more than "minnows" back in 1987, have both qualified for this year`s quarter finals. For this, both the teams involved as well as the IRB deserves much credit.

The IRB were also kind enough to allocate specialist coaching support for a period of 6 months prior to the kick-off of this year`s tournament. This support was received with open arms by the so-called "minnows". The results obtained, the support of the public at this year`s tournament, as well as the revenue generated by the sale of television rights clearly illustrates this. Whereas the revenue generated by television rights was around the $95 million mark in 2003, during this year`s edition, that flew up to $140 million.

Clearly, the game of rugby is busy growing, it`s popularity is increasing, it`s world-wide appeal is expanding and the revenue it is generating is skyrocketing.

All of this exposure has been great for the game of rugby, not least for the minnow nations. Just take a look at Georgia, for example. In 2003, they lost all 4 of their matches, and all by substantial margins. They were beaten by England (84-6), Samoa (46-9), South Africa (46-19) and Uraguay (24-12). During this year`s tournament, their results have shown a marked improvement. They lost to Argentina by 33-3, held Ireland to a very close 14-10, then scored their 1st-ever Rugby World Cup win over Namibia by 30-0. The only large margin scored against them was the 64-7 defeat to hosts France, a team currently ranked 5th on the IRB rankings. The exposure, coupled to their improved performances, have resulted in the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashviel, pledging the construction of a further 12 rugby stadiums, as well as the financing of a top-flight domestic competition. Not bad for a nation that currently boasts only 8 rugby stadia. Clearly, the exposure has resulted in greater support at home. This would never have happened without the showcase that is the IRB World Cup.

We would also like to highlight the plight of genuine minnows like Namibia and Portugal, teams made up out of more than 50% amateur players. These teams are a throwback to the true amateur game, the real roots of this beautiful game called rugby union. With their continued improvement- and both have improved immeasurably during the past 4 years, Portugal qualifying for the first time and Namibia a far cry from the side that got hammered 142-0 by Australia four years ago- what price that the exposure gained from participation in the Rugby World Cup could result in something similar than what has happened for Georgia?

The gauntlet has been thrown down to the "minnows". They`ve responded in the way that matters most- by performing on the fields of France 2007. What will be the reward for their efforts- to have four teams slashed off their number, or to have the incentive of gracing us with their presence again, on the biggest stage of all?

The Rugby Forum



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