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Does the RWC have too many teams?

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
This may well be an unpopular opinion to have, but especially after watching the fantastically competitive and exciting CWC earlier this year, I can't help but think the group phase of this World Cup suffers badly in comparison. Yeah, we had Uruguay's fantastic win over Fiji, but even that was at least partly the result of Fiji resting 2/3rds of their first choice team after a ridiculous 4 day turnaround from their first game. And the problem with a 4 group 20 team world cup is that those kinds of short turnarounds are unevitable unless you want the tournament to stretch on for nearly 2 months. It usually ends up with the mid-strength sides copping it the worst. In 2011 Samoa had a fantastic team, but their hopes of advancing to the quarters were hobbled by having to play their games against Wales and SA after 4 and 5 day rest periods respectively. In 2015, Japan's hopes of making the quarters were buggered by having to play Scotland only 4 days after their physically and emotionally exhausting win over SA. And on top of that, I look at the schedule for the next few days, and all I see are gross mismatches that sap my enthusiasm for the tournament.

I can't help but thinking that a 16 team tournament would both be fairer (as the even number of teams in each group would make the group phase easier to schedule fairly), more competitive and overall more interesting. I understand that the World Cup is meant to be a showcase for the game and a chance for the lesser lights to shine. But with teams like the USA, Georgia and the current Samoa outfit already looking like they don't really belong on the same field as the tier 1 sides, I can't help but feel that chucking Russia, Namibia and yes even Uruguay into the mix is negatively affecting the tournament is a whole.

Thoughts?
 

MrPrez

International Debutant
Nah.

It's fun to watch minnows give 100% trying to cause an upset, and gives more countries more incentive to develop their game. See Japan as a prime example.
 

Mike5181

International Captain
An extra week or so of one-sided games or you kill rugby in those countries altogether. I think you just have to tolerate a bit of mediocrity for the good of the sport long-term.
 

Flem274*

123/5
i see your point, but i also feel like tier 2 is better than ever. france, argentina and italy are exactly the sorts of teams to drop games to pacific island nations and your georgias etc in a world cup. plus 10 years ago no one predicted japan would be a serious threat to the traditional countries.

i could get behind a smaller wc if the irb actually tried with tier 2. the proposed 10 team unification would have been good if it had proper promotion and relegation but no ****ing way would england or some other cashed up team actually drop down if it came to it. everyone knows italy are trash and lucky not to be facing japan.
 

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
An extra week or so of one-sided games or you kill rugby in those countries altogether. I think you just have to tolerate a bit of mediocrity for the good of the sport long-term.
Do we really think that rugby's going to take off in Russia on the back of the past couple of weeks though? We've had 20 team tournaments since 1999 and apart from Japan (who've always had a lot of potential because of their relatively large playing population and financial muscle) no one's made significant progress. A lot of countries (the Pacific Islands, Canada, Romania) have actually gone backwards.
 
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Flem274*

123/5
An extra week or so of one-sided games or you kill rugby in those countries altogether. I think you just have to tolerate a bit of mediocrity for the good of the sport long-term.
georgia is a proper market as well in terms of potential enthusiasm there. far better than the usa and canadian pipe dreams. their geographical location is a bit of an issue tho.
 

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
i see your point, but i also feel like tier 2 is better than ever. france, argentina and italy are exactly the sorts of teams to drop games to pacific island nations and your georgias etc in a world cup. plus 10 years ago no one predicted japan would be a serious threat to the traditional countries.

i could get behind a smaller wc if the irb actually tried with tier 2. the proposed 10 team unification would have been good if it had proper promotion and relegation but no ****ing way would england or some other cashed up team actually drop down if it came to it. everyone knows italy are trash and lucky not to be facing japan.
They definitely are. It's good that the days of 80+ point blow outs are largely a thing of the past. But 40 point winning margins are just as boring to watch at the end of the day, and I kinda think that now that the squads in the tier 2 nations have already largely professionalised their approaches, I don't see a lot of potential for the gap being narrowed further.

I was never that keen on the idea of the 10 team unification league. I thought it would devalue the World Cup, and in all likelihood further stratify rugby between the top 10 haves and the have-nots. But agreed completely about the lack of investment in the tier 2 nations by the IRB
 

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
georgia is a proper market as well in terms of potential enthusiasm there. far better than the usa and canadian pipe dreams. their geographical location is a bit of an issue tho.
For the record, I've got no problems with sides like Georgia that are on the margins of competitiveness with the weaker tier 1 sides. They're a good example of why I think a 16 team tournament would be just right.
 

Howe_zat

Audio File
Using the thinking in the OP you would have binned Japan after 2011 and they'd never have got their famous wins. It's a no from me
 

BoyBrumby

Englishman
It's a worthy question.

My tuppence worth is that the odd blow out is a worthwhile price to pay to spread the gospel. It's not as if the tier 1 unions are especially generous giving tests to tier 2s outside of world cups. Argentina beating Ireland in 99 was arguably the catalyst for their development since and, hopefully when we look back, Japan's wins over SA & Ireland will have a similar effect on union in the land of the rising son.

20 is an awkward fit, but, on balance, 4 groups of 5 is just about better than the 5 groups of 4 we had in 99 where we had the group winners progressing directly to the quarters and the 5 runners up plus best performing third placed team facing an additional play-off round.
 

Flem274*

123/5
They definitely are. It's good that the days of 80+ point blow outs are largely a thing of the past. But 40 point winning margins are just as boring to watch at the end of the day, and I kinda think that now that the squads in the tier 2 nations have already largely professionalised their approaches, I don't see a lot of potential for the gap being narrowed further.

I was never that keen on the idea of the 10 team unification league. I thought it would devalue the World Cup, and in all likelihood further stratify rugby between the top 10 haves and the have-nots. But agreed completely about the lack of investment in the tier 2 nations by the IRB
they've only just begun to professionalise tho, and i'd hardly call it that still. i remember hearing the numbers for what the tongan players get paid to play. it's ridiculous, especially while northern hemisphere clubs strong arm tier 2 national reps to forgo playing for their country while the likes of scotland import nz maori rep shaun maitland and taranaki's own jayden hayward took the italian dollar.

i've got no issue with people playing for heritage nations per se since tier 2 teams benefit massively from that and i think the stick japan in particular cop is ludicrous given michael leitch went there as a 13 year old, but the financial situation makes it almost impossible for tier 2 nations to advance beyond a certain point. japan being able to fund their own lucrative domestic league plus a super rugby team has really pulled them above the other tier 2 nations quickly.
 
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Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
Using the thinking in the OP you would have binned Japan after 2011 and they'd never have got their famous wins. It's a no from me
Nah, Japan still would've qualified easily playing the way they did in 2015.
 

flibbertyjibber

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
I think it is fine, yes we get a few one sided drubbings like NZ v Canada yesterday but how can they improve if not involved. We moan at cricket world cup being a closed shop so can't complain that the rugby one is more open to minnows. Don't need any more sides in it though.
 

Howe_zat

Audio File
They qualified as Asia 1 which was a pot 5 spot.

In any case the lower tier teams are way more competitive than they used to be. The best team in the world vs the not-even-20th-best used to be 120-3 or 142-0 (both from 2003) and now the worst it gets is 63-0? I'm not saying Canada competed against the All Blacks but it's not all that bad.
 

Uppercut

Request Your Custom Title Now!
I'm usually in favour of larger, more inclusive world cups, but especially so in rugby because the other major international tournaments have such a closed structure. As an Irish cricket fan I know first-hand how much the chance to play very occasional big matches means, and how genuinely transformative they can be for minority sports in second-tier countries. It's understandable if the prospect of Namibia vs. New Zealand bores you, but it's only once every four years and no one's forcing you to watch.
 

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
Oh believe me, I won't be. But I just feel that when every second game is either a gross mismatch or a dead rubber between teams with no realistic chance of advancing that that spoils the tournament a bit.
 

ripper868

Cricketer Of The Year
English Premier League has too many teams. Discuss. Too many dead rubbers between teams with no chance of winning the competition. The Minnow teams have no chance, especially Arsenal, Tottenham, Man United...

Can apply the same arguments being out forth for reducing the number of teams for every tournament, including the cricket world cup in it's current 10 team format, once 5 matches are played on group stages you end up with 4 dead rubbers like this years iteration with South Africa/West Indies et al.

Anyway, no there are not too many teams at the once every 4 year event for tier 2 teams to get their butts kicked and everyone hope NZ has an off day.
 

Athlai

Not Terrible
I mean the EPL doesn't have half of its match ups being affairs were one team wins 1% of the time. Rugby is a game where a large margin of quality is felt even more IMO. Perhaps its the physicality and the number of players on the field. We'd probably see the same with gridiron if anyone besides the Yanks tried to competitively play it.
 

Bahnz

Hall of Fame Member
It's a worthy question.

My tuppence worth is that the odd blow out is a worthwhile price to pay to spread the gospel. It's not as if the tier 1 unions are especially generous giving tests to tier 2s outside of world cups. Argentina beating Ireland in 99 was arguably the catalyst for their development since and, hopefully when we look back, Japan's wins over SA & Ireland will have a similar effect on union in the land of the rising son.
Tbf, Rugby has been a reasonably popular sport in Argentina since the 50's and their national side has been competitive since the 70's. They went through a fallow period in the 90's and then came back. I'm not denying that their WC qf appearance in '99 wasn't a part of that, but they already had the player base and culture in place that is so critical to maintaining and building momentum.

It would be interesting to get a perspective on why some fringe countries like Argentina and increasingly Japan have been able to go to the next level, while others like Canada have dropped off a cliff.

I think you're probably right about 4 pools of 5 being better than 5 pools of 4 + a repechage round. It would solve the awkward scheduling problem raised by the current odd-number of teams in each group. But you then either have to give the qualifiers a ridiculously short turnaround before the quarters, or have the knock-out phase run for an entire extra week. Not great either way.
 
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