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.