Jake: Time to bin Rugby Championship?

Jake White

Watching Argentina lose against Australia in Mendoza got me thinking about the merits of a global season.

In six seasons since being added to the Rugby Championship, the Pumas have won three matches and have finished last five times.

They finished third at the 2007 World Cup, coming from nowhere to suddenly be a force in world rugby. There was a push to get them involved in some sort of a competition and I remember being in a meeting after that World Cup to talk about where they could fit in.

The Pumas joined the Rugby Championship in 2012 and the Jaguares were launched in 2016. The Super Rugby team has won 11 of 30 matches, conceding 96 tries.

In January of 2008, Argentina were ranked third in the world. Today, they’re 10th. You have to ask whether it’s been worth it for them – my guess is they’d answer yes and no.

In a lot of ways, it has been worth it because Argentina get to play the top-tier nations every year, home and away. In the decade before the Tri-Nations was expanded, the Pumas played less than 10 matches against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa outside of the World Cup.

But it’s a double-edged sword as far as the rankings go. A team moves up the rankings by winning away from home or winning at home by more than 15 points. If you’re in the Rugby Championship against the world champions, South Africa and Australia, those two things are not the norm.

They’ve continued to drop down in the world rankings because every time they lose they drop a place. So, in a way, they’ve shot themselves in the foot because their world rankings never go up.

And that’s a problem because it affects what you can do as a rugby nation. When Eddie Jones was with Japan he organized a game against Wales during the Lions tour to Australia – Japan beat Wales and they jumped up the rankings and it was easier for them to secure sponsorships.

The converse is now true for Argentina, because they’re playing the best teams but they’re not winning. As I’ve said before, don’t underestimate the toll that losing has on your team every time.

In the old days, I remember how some schoolmasters used to deliberately organise their fixture list so that they didn’t play the top sides. If Grey Bloem was having a great season, no one wanted to play them. But then, two years later you find out they’ve got a weak age group, and everyone wants to play them!

But where do Argentina go now? They desperately wanted to get into a competition and now they’re in one where they always finish last and keep slipping down the rankings.

England and Ireland are second and third on the current rankings below New Zealand. They only play in the Six Nations and then they play tier-two nations because World Rugby is trying to create games for teams like Fiji.

England hasn’t played New Zealand for years and they won’t for another year. As a stakeholder or rugby supporter, you would want to see them play each other regularly.

And that’s where a global season has value in providing a balanced schedule and a true measure of where teams are in world rugby.

With a global season, the Six Nations and Rugby Championship would be replaced by a global calendar that schedules fixtures based on the world rankings. Instead of finishing last in the Rugby Championships every year, Argentina’s schedule would be a cross-section of northern and southern hemisphere opponents.

Obviously, the opposing school of thought is that if the top teams play each other every year, the mystique and excitement that was generated by the famous old tours start to disappear.

Is it good to have those games regularly, or put them on hold so that the rivalry remains intense? I think I know what the Pumas would say.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Lions Fan '82

    Makes for some interesting thoughts…. Thanks Mr White!
    A global season would be great and probably result in a more accurate world rankings table, but new problems would also emerge in a year or two. Just like when changes were made to Super Rugby and the Rugby Championships. The global season will just have many many more challenges.
    They say change is good, but it has not always been implemented correctly in Rugby. There’s always someone, or a team, that gets dealt a crap hand in order for the majority to benefit. And there are too many role players in this Global Season we’re talking about. Broadcasters,domestic tournaments and then the weather. It’s not winter in both North and South hemispheres at the same time.
    There’s way too much planning to mention. The main concern should be that no country must be worse off than before the changes came, no-one should be sacrificed. If they can get that right it will be fantastic!

  • Craig

    Is there any sport out there that has a working model of a global calendar ? Or is rugby pioneering iT ?

  • Louis

    I never agree with White but i think his got a point wherther i like him or not.
    Personally i think going back playing Currie cup and club rugby would be better
    Bring back long tours. Wednesday games
    Will never happen
    Money money money
    Like Craven often said. Money will eventually destroy rugby

  • Afzal

    I think the 6 nations should remain as it is competitive and has a lot of tradition. The rugby championship is too predictable with the all blacks dominating and together with super rugby be scraped. The springbok is dead with political interference and issues and the talent drain of hundreds of players.

  • Paul

    It’s simple money is killing our beloved sport called rugby. It’s not about green and gold any more its MONEY

  • Stanley

    It would be fun to watch the Six Nations teams and Rugby Championships teams competing for one prize. Good point about how it would give us a truer reflection of how the top 10 teams should be ranked. I imagine the Pumas are well capable of beating the Scots and Italy away, and any one of the Six Nations team at home in Argentina, without a doubt. Imagine what that would do for their rankings. I still think we’d most likely have the Southern Hemisphere teams dominating the competition though, but not by much.

  • Stanley

    You’d probably have to run a competition of this sort with the teams playing in two pools with 5 teams each (based on their world ranking and then a draw), and then the top 2 of each group could go on to play each other in a semi final match (for example the top team pool A would play the second spot finisher in pool B), and then there would have to be the big final showdown at a venue decided before the tournament started. The competition could be played over two legs during the time slots when the 6 Nations and Rugby Championships usually take place, and then probably the November tours would disappear. Or we could have that time slot available for one of the Southern Hemisphere sides to take on the British Lions, another team could play the Barbarians and maybe one of the other SH teams could schedule a trip for a team to tour France or Italy. It would be crazy!

  • Sia_Meleni

    Personally I feel Argentins got a big piece that they couldn’t chew. I think WRU should organize a six/ seven nation for pacific Nations cup. Where we wl hv Arg,Samoa,tonga,fiji,usa,canada,japan, and a winner of this championship wl be promoted to play in the Rugby championship with the ABs,Boks,Auses. That way everyone gets a chance to meet the Top dogs. But i know some might complain of travelling when it comes to such games. Then i can Suggest thst they are played in nov/dec same time as when the ABs n Boks n Aus go play Europe tour n then we hv the tournament in Jun/july again.

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