Thursday’s rugby news sees the senate inquiry getting underway in WA, breaking down the IPRC, France insisting they take the World Cup, and more NRC Goss.
A dog’s breakfast
Nup, the image has nothing to do with the actual dogs breakfast that were the early findings of the WA senate inquiry into the culling of the Western Force. But the bewildered face really says it all.
Force fans, look away. The next few paragraphs are not for pretty reading.
It turns out (and this will most likely be of no surprise to many people), the Melbourne Rebels received up to double the funding of the Western Force in the years leading up to the latter’s axing from Super Rugby.
Citing the ARU’s own statements, WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds pointed out to the ARU that in the last three years, the Force received the least amount of funding of Australia’s five teams, and the Rebels received the most.
Oh, and to rub a bit of extra salt into the wound, these figures also didn’t include a $13 million loan the Rebels had that which was written off by the ARU.
“Anyway you look at this the Force got the least amount of these Super Rugby grants than any other team, in some cases they get almost half of what the Rebels got,” Senator Reynolds told the hearing, which was reported in The Australian.
However, for all the events of the senate hearing, the answers of Bill Pulver were expected to be most critically analysed. Turns out, there wasn’t much in the way of answers.
Pulver reportedly made repeated references to cited confidentiality agreements when refusing to answer questions about how much support the ARU had provided to the Rebels. However, he expressly denied that the Rebels were receiving more money off the back of the demise of the Force.
Rather, he argued that the entire point of downsizing was to free up cash and stop the decline of the game in Australia.
He was then grilled over a hot fire by three WA senators, including Reynolds, who argued that (given the referencing to the ARU bank statements as mentioned earlier) it was surprising that Pulver was citing financial issues for the Force’s axing.
The Senate inquiry continues today. You can watch it here.
Having a cold Indo-Pacific Pale Ale with the Boys
Kick & Chase and all the Fox Sports lads in general can be pretty lacklustre at times, but in their defence they recently threw out a really interesting discussion around the newly proposed IPRC competition.
Chatting on the topic and how it will affect Australian rugby, with Stephen Hoiles, All Black Andrew Mehrtens, and Drew Mitchell had a lot of thought-provoking perspectives on how the competition may change the entire rugby landscape.
“I would like to think that we could potentially [cut] South Africa but I’d like to see us (stay) with New Zealand long-term,” Hoiles argued.
“I think that’s the best standard of rugby.
“We’ve got to keep thinking high performance here, we’ve always got to think what’s best for grassroots and at the same time what’s best for the Wallabies.
“So I think long-term, I’d love to see this be the one competition (Super Rugby and IPRC). We really do need to talk to Andrew Forrest and be very serious about it because no-one’s coming to our game with this type of money and this type of vision.
“We’d be so naive to ignore him and say ‘thanks but we don’t need you, we’ll take it from here,’ because where we are, it’s not working and we need to consider options.
“To be honest we’re fortunate to still have him in the game because his side is the Western Force and they weren’t happy with how they were treated.”
Mehrtens on the other hand argued that we should go all out and push rugby into the Asian Market.
“Well, it’s been 20 years since they talked about the WRC (Kerry Packer’s proposed World Rugby Championship),” Mehrtens said.
“And that was about playing in your time zones and it was about logically having competitions globally, where you had your preliminary comps in those time zones and then you had playoffs across the globe.”
Drew Mitchell then added that maybe, should the IPRC take off, it could lead to a huge reformatting of the NRC post 2020.
“For me, if this competition (IPRC) was to absorb the NRC in 2020, I’d like to see club rugby replace that NRC model,” Mitchell said.
“This is just throwing it out there but if the top four from the Brisbane competition, at the end of Shute Shield or their respective competitions, the top four from Sydney, one from Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, they make up what would be the new National Rugby Championship.
“And it gives teams in those competitions something to aspire to.”
Interested to hear all the GAGRs thoughts on this.
Donnez-nous la Coupe du Monde de Rugby!
Current bidding is underway for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with the current race for the tournament between three contenders in South Africa, Ireland and France. And in the banter department, the French really stepped up their game yesterday.
A fight for Bill in France in 2023 would, according to the French, prevent the “death of international rugby.” The French, on top of their bid to host the tournament, have also guaranteed World Rugby nearly £500m of funds as part of their bid.
The French’s bid leader, Claude Atcher believes that a World Cup in France would change the dynamic of rugby hugely, particularly in regards to funding of the sport on a global level, but also in regards to changing South African, Australian and New Zealand players from decisions to play in rich French clubs.
“If we don’t do anything, in five to 10 years you will have two, three to four teams on the same level and that’s all, and I think rugby will die,” said Atcher to the Guardian.
“If you are looking at New Zealand, the best team in the world, their financial report in June showed they lost €3m [£2.65m]. South Africa, they lost €2m. Australia, they have a lot of issues with structure, teams, players and financially.
“Italy’s financial report in June showed that they lost £2m. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are not losing money but they are balanced in terms of budget. The only unions with a profit are England and France.
“We are not World Rugby and do not want to fight with them, they are a key body. But to develop rugby we need some new teams, a strong team in the USA, Russia and China, and emerging countries, to increase the capacity of rugby and to involve more people around the world.
“If we are awarded the World Cup it will accelerate our political changes with the professional championship in France,” he added.
“If we don’t change the rules in five years or 10 years, all South African, Australian and New Zealand players will play in France, in England.
“The best players are not playing for the national team so the results are not as expected by the unions, so it’s very damaging. If you look at the English Premier League in football, it’s exactly the same situation. All clubs are using foreign players and the results of England’s national team are the same as the French rugby team and we have to change that.”
By comparison, Ireland has responded by promising to play some of it’s games over in the United States, should their bid be successful.
“If the rugby community is genuine about wanting to expand the sport, if they want to inspire people from other countries as potential hosts, then we believe we’ve made it easy for them to do that,” said the Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive, Philip Browne.
“What we’d see as a tripartite partnership has to be put in place, between Ireland 2023 if we win the bid, World Rugby and US Rugby. It’s about what can we do to increase the footprint of rugby in North America.”
The Rugby Championship is on it’s second break this weekend, which means the NRC will be the only rugby on this weekend. So, if there is a game nearby, head on an check it out! You won’t be disappointed.
As Brett McKay noted on Rugby.com.au a few days back, this year has been a good one so far for the NRC. Fiji’s inclusion in the competition has seen the comp pick up some much needed support, both in the very notable increase in attendance of people going to games as well as numbers on TV.
The only place where numbers are pretty average crowd-wise are in Sydney and Canberra, and even despite the improved numbers this year, many have wondered why the competition hasn’t gone where the people have gone. For example, having a couple of games as curtain raisers for Wallaby tests?
Any way, round four kicks off this week with a couple of interesting fixtures. Starting off, NSW Country will have their first home game of the season when they host the Canberra Vikings in Armidale. The Eagles are still to get a win on the board and have been looking way off the pace this year, but it’s amazing what one win can do. Add in that they were starting to pull some decent country crowds last year, and who knows what will happen? The Vikings have been one of the in-form teams of the competition so far, despite their loss against Brisbane City last week at the AON Uni Sevens. I reckon they’ll sniff plenty of blood here.
The Fijian Drua pulled in an impressive opening crowd in their victory against NSW Country last week, however this week the lads host Perth Spirit, who will be out with a point to prove. Easily the contender for match of the round, this may go a long way to deciding who the minor premier of the competition is. The Spirit won’t look like they’ll take Fiji lightly, and a win here will do much for them to open up a lead at the top of the table.
On the Sunday, the Sydney Rays will be back at Pittwater Rugby Park, and will hope they can drum up a bit more support when they take on Queensland Country, who have just come off the bye. The Rays accounted for Melbourne Rising pretty well at the end of last week, and will look to see this match as a big momentum builder. Win this, and many will rate their chances in this competition. Country meanwhile are looking like an intimidating beast this year with Brad Thorn as coach, and will look to get back into the top four with a win here.
Finally, Melbourne Rising will be back home for the last match of the round when they host the Greater Sydney Rams. They’re a young side, and are currently 0-3, but the Rising have shown plenty of talent this year, and judging by how the Spirit dismantled the Rams last week, they may sniff an upset. Both the Rising and the Rebels have played a combined eighteen matches this year for just one win, one draw and sixteen losses. They need a win badly. The Rams lost a lot of their composure that made them look so menacing against the NSW teams, but they will sense an opportunity here to get back to the top of the table, particularly when considering other results of the round.
Brisbane City will have the bye this weekend.
Get out there and support your NRC rugby this weekend. It’s looking like a cracker.