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Monday, August 21, 2006

That light at the end of the tunnel... 

Is a broken-down train, apparently. I'm in two minds about the hoopla for the 2011 Union world cup ... on the one hand anything that can precipitate investment and improvement in Auckland's public transport is to be welcomed. On the other hand, I doubt the transport implications for the WC are as great as commonly imagined. At the very least, they appear mistaken in suggesting that Mt Eden, rather than the aiport/city link, is going to the crunch point. Eden Park isn't that much of a problem ... there will only be as many people going to the ground as can secure tickets (and perhaps a few hundred or thousand other hopefuls/curious bystanders), and the media. So a final there it will attract a few thousand more people than a standard test match or ODI, but it's not like people will be simultaneously trekking to Eden Park in their hundreds of thousands.

One last thought on WC matters, relating to the extent to which union is or is not an international sport. How many teams can realistically hope to appear in the final of the next wc? I've got: England, France, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia. And that's it. Five competitive teams, and maybe I'm being a fraction generous including France. Maybe I missed some one?

Now we might make some useful comparisons:

Cricket strikes me as a bit more competitive - WC finalists could easily include any two of England, Australia, South Africa, India, and Pakistan - and New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are have at least faint-to-moderate prospects. So that's 5-8 competitive teams.

Or a sport most NZers don't pay any attention to - ice hockey - the competitive teams include: Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Switzerland. So there's 8 countries off the top of my head.

So, union fans, why should the sporting generalist be interested in your world cup when there are only 5 (or perhaps more realistically 4) teams that could make the final??

Comments:
I've used the same argument with soccer before.

Despite all the crap about it being the only true global game there are always only 6-8 teams who are a realistic chance of winning it.

If you don't believe me look at how many different winners there have been in the past 40 years.
 
You are correct.

Teams that have appeared in the final of the Fifa World Cup since 1986 (# appearances in brackets):

Brazil (3)
Germany/West Germany (3)
Argentina (2)
Italy (2)
France (2)

Teams that have appeared in the final of the rugby union World Cup since 1987:

Australia (3)
New Zealand (2)
France (2)
England (2)
South Africa (1)

Teams that have appeared in the gold medal game of Olympic men's (ice) hockey since 1988:

Canada (3)
USSR/CIS (2)
Sweden (2)
Finland (2)
USA (1)
Czech Rep (1)
Russia (1)

A bit of a moot point whether to list Russia separately from the USSR/CIS, I guess. But it still seems a little more open than either football or rugby union.
 
I forgot cricket:

Teams that have appeared in the final of the Cricket World Cup since 1987 (# appearances in brackets):

Australia (4)
England (2)
Pakistan (2)
Sri Lanka (1)
India (1)

In fact only 6 teams have *ever* appeared: the West Indies is the other one (appearing in all three finals from 75-83).
 
I find it mildly amusing how the regular bloggers here appear to be compelled to slag off rugby union on a fairly regular basis--``Conclusion: lots of sports aren't very competitive at the top level, and this is very true for union.``.... also very true for every other sport you listed in your stats there.

As a Rugby Union fan I realize there is a total bias towards League and Hockey with the bloggers here,(2 sports that I am also very keen on incidentally), however it gets a bit jadingly dull reading your attempts to discredit Union as a competitve sport or an interesting spectator sport to follow. Both Ice hockey and League aren`t exactly immune to televised yawnfests in between the good games.

Perhaps its the saturation coverage that union is afforded by the nz media that has given rise to your rugby union derision. This kind of coverage is quite normal with the most popular and widely followed sports in plenty of other countries,,,,,e.g,Baseball Japan, Football England, Italy ,Germany etc..., Hockey Canada, NFL USA, AFL Western Australia, League NSW.

I`ve noticed how any `big` union match, be it a super 14 game or international test, that turns out to be a bit of a fizzer in the excitement department, Yamis and dc_red are out straight away to remind everyone how crap union is. However, usually not an iota is blogged here when a good union match is played. Case in point,last Saturdays test. I didn`t watch it but from all accounts it was well worth watching.

To answer this question: `So, union fans, why should the sporting generalist be interested in your world cup when there are only 5 (or perhaps more realistically 4) teams that could make the final??`

Why bloody not ???? There`s a damn good chance of catching some brilliant fecking games of a tough and at times great spectator sport.

dc_red, you say you are being a fraction generous including France as a potential finalist in the next world cup, yet you include England in your list of realistic potential finalists ?????? Crikey fella !!!! Have you actually watched any international Union since 2003 ? Do you know who the current six nations champs are ? No mention of Ireland or Argentina on that list of yours. Even Scotland rolled England in the last six nations,(as well as France).

I would say Union IS actually becoming more competitive at the `top level`, but as in pretty much every other sport, the top level is limited to just a few competing countries.
 
Taksithi -

"Perhaps its the saturation coverage that union is afforded by the nz media that has given rise to your rugby union derision."

This is true for me.

"This kind of coverage is quite normal with the most popular and widely followed sports in plenty of other countries,,,,,e.g,Baseball Japan, Football England, Italy ,Germany etc..., Hockey Canada, NFL USA, AFL Western Australia, League NSW."

I lived in Canada for four years and it is possible to ignore the NHL if you want to ... while it may dominate the sporting press, it does not dominate life more generally (unless, perhaps, you live in a city whose team makes it a long way in the finals).

In any case, at least with regard to the NHL, the media adopts a critical stance, and will criticize the players, the standard of play, the officials, and the rules as and where they see fit. Not a whole lot of this in NZ re: rugby. The All Blacks lack of proficiency in the lineout may be criticised, but the concept of a lineout remains immune.

"I`ve noticed how any `big` union match, be it a super 14 game or international test, that turns out to be a bit of a fizzer in the excitement department, Yamis and dc_red are out straight away to remind everyone how crap union is."

Err, not me. I have recently said I don't like many of the rules of rubgby union - such as (what I see as) perverse incentives for giving away possession, and kicking the ball out of play, etc. Also I do not see the dominance of the referee as good for the sport ... I think I made the same criticism of football during the FIFA world cup.

"dc_red, you say you are being a fraction generous including France as a potential finalist in the next world cup, yet you include England in your list of realistic potential finalists ?????? Crikey fella !!!! Have you actually watched any international Union since 2003 ? Do you know who the current six nations champs are ? No mention of Ireland or Argentina on that list of yours. Even Scotland rolled England in the last six nations,(as well as France)."

Only five teams have appeared in the last four finals, and my sense is that they remain the only five teams with much of a hope. I struggle to see the likes of Argentina, Scotland or Ireland ever getting past New Zealand, Australia or South Africa in the WC. Indeed, *none* of those teams has *ever* beaten New Zealand at test level. (We have lost to Wales, but not for a long time, from memory).

In any case my quick calculations led me to conclude (somewhat to my surprise) that union is neither much better nor much worse than the other sports I follow from time to time. So I agree with the second part of your conclusion: "as in pretty much every other sport, the top level is limited to just a few competing countries."

It is interesting that this holds true regardless of how many countries play the game reasonably seriously ... with, say, cricket at one end of the spectrum (about 10 countries) and football at the other (204 countries in FIFA I think ... and at a guess well over half take football pretty seriously).
 
Taksithi, what are you talking about?

I have pointed out numerous times that rugby is 'crapper' (but not crap) than people make out but as an avid rugby follower, who has played it for years and goes to watch club rugby when I can I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick.

Yes, I did watch the game in the weekend and yes it was a good game and yes the All Blacks played well but I'm fucked if I'm going to waste my time coming on here and writing what you can read 50 times over in the main stream media.

This is OUR blog site about shit that you can't and won't read elsewhere not the NZRU website or the fawning MSM. If you want to read me saying, "gee, the test was quite good" then you won't cos if I start writing that crap shoot me. Or else get me a job at stuff.co.nz

My thoughts on the game were that we were playing dumb football as usual by our idiotic game plan of running the ball from near our 22 throughout the first half.

Eventually this bit us on the arse as it often does with Collins throwing a huge intercept pass. That along with never gaining any field position enabled Aussie to knock a few penalties over. Aussie had absolutely nothing on attack in that game and yet somehow we conspired to give thema handy lead which they maintained until the 50th minute.

'Luckily' for us we are physically a far more gifted team than the Aussies.

I just get pissed off because if we played a more sensible game we would win these games more comfortably and would possibly stand a better chance of winning the world cup next year.

If you don't like our blogsite putting the boot into rugby then go read something else. Cliched but true.

Oh and for the record, me slagging off the crap games in the ANZ NPC is no different than every other bastard out there, on talkback, in the papers and on TV.

YEEHHHAAAA

You may also have noted that the Warriors played awesomely in the past weekend and have done so for a few months but I haven't written anything about that either.

Would you care to make comment on that?
 
"I would say Union IS actually becoming more competitive at the `top level`, but as in pretty much every other sport, the top level is limited to just a few competing countries."

One other thing.

That quoted comment above is bollocks.

South Africa are playing the worst rugby in their hundred year history. They were far stronger in the amateur era.

Australia lost 8 from 9 tests last year and have now lost 5 in a row to the All Blacks. Aussie had their glory days in the 90s and they are now over.

England are shit. They had a few years where they were the best nation in the world for the first and possibly last time in their history.

France are all over the place. One minute brilliant and the next moment incompetent.

Ireland are playing well but they have virtually peaked and will slide back down over the next few seasons.

And all of the above mentioned sides barring Ireland would take apart virtually any other side in the world by 50-100 points.

Samoa are ranked 10th in the world but lost 56-12 to the junior All Blacks.

But Samoa beat the 16th ranked team Tonga 36-0.

Meanwhile Tonga beat the 20th ranked team Japan 57-16
 
dc_red, I`m fully aware of how fawning the nz sports media can be when it comes to covering rugby union. It gets on my tits at times to be honest.

Of all the places that I have spent any decent amount of time in- i.e, more than just a stop-over- I would have to say the Western Australian media,(sport and general media),would have to be the most insular and inward looking that I have yet encountered.

Of all the countries that I have been to so far, I have to say I was most impressed with what the Irish sports media had to offer in terms of wide sports media coverage.
Considering Ireland is a country with a population,(and presumably media personnel),similar in size to nz, they do tend to throw the media net quite wide in overall coverage of sport. Of course there is a tendency towards covering the national sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling more than other sports.
English premiership football is also a closely followed favourite of the Irish media. So much so that one might wonder whether Ireland actually has a football,(soccer), league of their own worth following at times.

In regards to sports coverage in Canada, I must confess that any opinion I currently hold on that topic is entirely based on what I have heard through other people and also internet research as I have never stepped foot on Canadian soil.

You say ``In any case, at least with regard to the NHL, the media adopts a critical stance, and will criticize the players, the standard of play, the officials, and the rules as and where they see fit. Not a whole lot of this in NZ re:rugby.``

I don`t entirely agree with you that we aren`t seeing a critical stance being taken by the nz media with regards to: 1. ``the standard of play, critisizing players``,(this has been a media pet project for quite a while), 2. ``The officials``, (officials seem to be copping more and more flak and subjected to closer scrutiny,,,and bugger it,,,,fair enough !!! Why not ? they are paid professionals and should aim to officiate professionally).3.``The All Blacks lack of proficiency in the lineout may be criticised, but the concept of a lineout remains immune.``

I`m really not sure what to make of this statement. For starters, I haven`t even been living in NZ for almost 4 years now but I do remember the last time i was living there hearing and reading opinions and robust discussions on scrapping the lineout in Union in order to provide a more attractive sporting spectacle.

I`m not sure on how influential NZ`s media would be in even getting Rugby`s international governing body to consider scrapping what has been a part of Rugby Union for just about,,,,well...., forever really, sweet fuck all I`d imagine though.

In any case, just because this happens to be a weak area in NZ`s game, should this mean that nz should use its internatinaol clout to get rid of that part of the game ??? I don`t seriously think that is what you are getting at, but there are rules and areas of many sports that are easily critisizable,(did i just invent a word there?), that would probably make a sport more watchable if they were scrapped.

I`m not a huge fan of the lineout, but then again, there are certain rules in almost every sport that I get pissed off with. Leagues 10 meter rule being one that comes to mind off the top of my head that tends to grate.

d_c red, I have to say I pretty much fully agree with you in thinking that Argentina, Scotland or Ireland would stuggle to get past New Zealand, Australia or South Afirca in the WC. However, those teams have beaten England and France in Rugby Union before and you were talking about realistic chances of making the WC final......sorry for being over pedantic, but I would say there is a fair enough chance of that happening again in order to see one of those teams making it to a WC final.

Couldn`t see any of those 3 teams actually claiming the title though,(at the next world cup ).
 
Are you saying that Argentina, Ireland or Scotland could make the world cup final?

Ireland would be an outside chance of making the semis provided they had an easy draw ie. Samoa in the quarters and South Africa in the semis.

But realistically the semis will be between NZ, Aussie, South Africa, France and England. Same as the last 4 world cups... and same as the next 4 world cups... and the 4 world cups after that.

You watch. Nothing much has changed in the past hundred years and nothing much will change in the next hundred.

There is only one big change that has occured. Wales went from being a real powerhouse to being pretty woeful. Apart from a few other smallish changes that is about it.
 

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