Friday, 4 April 2014

Should the IRB Nations Cup be shifted to Russia?


Should the IRB shift the venue of their June IRB Nations Cup tournaments to other nations, notably Russia who get little opportunity to play in front of a home crowd.

Under the current schedules, whilst the North Americans, Japan and Pacific Islanders are busy playing the PNC and a once in a while opportunity (apart from Tonga) to host a Tier 1 team in front of their sold out crowds, the ENC nations have a distinctly lower key June.

Both the two leaders of the ENC, Georgia and Romania host a 4 team round robin tournament over two weekends and a midweek game. Joining them in competition is normally representative sides such as "Emerging Italy" or "Argentina Jaguars", along with national sides along the level of Uruguay and Russia.

It's largely a development tournament for all involved to test and trial players and combinations, so not as interesting as is what is happening at the same time in June with the PNC nations. But it could possibly be of more interest played in countries who host less often, especially Russia.
Match pic
A good indication of the average size
of a Sochi rugby crowd

Russia have the lowest home crowds of any nation at the World Cup. They permanent problem of playing a European international schedule with winters too fierce in large parts of the country which push games to Sochi (where the sport isn't at all pupular), Colwyn Bay or Barnet as opposed to areas where many Russians would watch the side.

Joining the Asian system and playing home games in May is an eminently sensible suggestion, but there is seemingly no willingness from the RUR to do that. In the European system though, the IRB Nations Cup might be a chance for the Bears to play at home properly for a change. If not Russia, then perhaps Uruguay who get a scant amount of home games in years they don't host the South American Championship.

As mentioned before, it's a development tournament and lacks the intrigue of the higher priority fixtures where winning is more important. Georgia sold out the far larger Dinamo Arena and Mikheil Meskhi Stadium this year, but the IRB Tbilisi Cup will be played in a small 2,000 stadium.

Quite simply, both Georgians and Romanians have more important fixtures to put their mind to such as the ENC Grand Slam decider than see their reserves take on "Emerging Italy". It's doubtful many Georgians would shed many tears at not hosting that match.

The relatively low key tournament would probably be a bigger event for a nation below the top 18 to host and be more valuable to them in order to boost coverage and interest in the game. Very few Russians would have watched them play much since the World Cup, next no new fans would search out for RUR's crappy streams.

So whilst the status quo is not doing any harm, and the development tournaments (although not necessarily ideal) at least save certain nations from the alternative of spending June doing nothing. There's a possibility it could do more good elsewhere, provided the RUR do it properly of course.

1 comment :

  1. I don't think it's a case of having to shift the Nations Cup. There's other tier one nations who don't have their 2nd string or developmental sides participating in any competition like England & France and other top tier three teams also not involved like Portugal and Chile, and in a non-RWC qualifying year the top African team like Namibia, who have played in Bucharest a number of times could be in line to participate as well. Russia just needs to have it's own event, and the team lineups need to be rotated and mixed around year by year over the three events.