All posts by stuhardyhlr

Rugby fanatic, based in Toronto, Canada.

2027: EXPANDING THE RUGBY WORLD CUP – ParT 2

Stuart Hardy

@hard_rugby

In this series, Stuart will explore the means of expanding the participation number of rugby union’s crown jewel. This series will explore why expansion is needed, which nations should join, how the new tournament will play out, and how the new structure can be implemented for following tournaments.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2: The next 4 teams

This is where guesswork comes into the equation; if World Rugby follow the timing of the 2023 Rugby World Cup bids, they should announce the hosts of the 2027 tournament by November 2021. Currently, the bids in place are Australia, Argentina, and Russia…but with Argentina supposedly withdrawing their bid, and Russia being banned from hosting or competing in global sporting events until 2023, it currently looks like the tournament will, once again, be held Down Under.

https://keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2018/10/GettyImages-872886848.jpg
(RugbyWorld.Com)

As we still haven’t decided on the hosts, never mind the teams, we’re going to be using the teams that have already qualified for 2023, with a few extras to make up the numbers to reach 24 teams. Please bear with me, as a lot of this is guesswork, but it’s also hypothetical, so it’s all in the name of fun and progress. 

So far, the top 3 teams from each pool in the 2019 Rugby World Cup have automatically qualified. These include:

  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • England
  • Wales
  • Australia
  • Ireland (hooray!)
  • Argentina
  • France 
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Fiji

If they had not qualified already, France would have received automatic qualification, as the host nation.

https://s.france24.com/media/display/43b64d6a-dc54-11e9-b10c-005056bff430/w:1240/p:16x9/rugby-coupe-monde-2019-france-argentine-xv-resultat-3.webp
(France24.Com)

To make up the remaining 8 teams for 2023, World Rugby have qualification tournaments in place. Some of these will be games scheduled during the designated international window by World Rugby. Others will form part of competitions that are already in place, such as the Rugby Europe Championship, and the Americas Rugby Championship.

The qualification process will have teams from the following regions. This is based on the qualification format for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as the allocation for 2023 has yet to be confirmed:

  • 2 teams from the Americas
  • 2 from Oceania
  • 1 from Europe
  • 1 from Africa
  • The winner of a Play-Off between Europe 2 and Oceania 3
  • The winner of a Repechage tournament, consisting of
    • the Play-Off loser
    • Africa 2
    • Americas 3
    • and the winner of a play-off between Asia 1 and Oceania 4. 
https://resources.world.rugby/worldrugby/photo/2018/11/23/01021677-0dc6-4b4b-a7f0-935ad6500912/1064623854.jpg
(RugbyWorldCup.Com)

For this new scenario, I would grant an extra team allocation to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, to bring the total up to 24. 

Now, while these qualification competitions won’t even start until 2021, I’ll be using the highest allocated teams from each region in the world rankings, at the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The playoff winner will be the next team from either Europe or Oceania. The repechage winner will be the next highest ranked team from any global region. 

Therefore, my 12 remaining teams will be:

  1. USA (Americas 1)
  2. Uruguay (Americas 2)
  3. Canada (Americas 3)
  4. Tonga (Oceania 1)
  5. Samoa (Oceania 2)
  6. Georgia (Europe 1)
  7. Spain (Europe 2)
  8. Namibia (Africa 1)
  9. Kenya (Africa 2)
  10. Hong Kong (Asia 1)
  11. Romania (Play-off winner)
  12. Russia (Repechage winner)

OK, so now we have all our 24 teams. In this hypothetical scenario, 2 teams (Kenya and Hong Kong) will make their first appearance at the Rugby World Cup. That opens up a market of 47.6 and 7.4 million, respectively. Even just getting 20% of that is 11 million more people engaged in the sport we love.

https://i2.wp.com/www.americasrugbynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/hong-kong-matt-rosslee-kenya-2017.jpg
(AmericasRugbyNews.Com)

So, we have our 24 teams, and we’re all set for the tournament to take place in (probably) Australia. But the addition of new teams means that the current format will have to change. Player safety is also of paramount importance, so we don’t want to increase the total number of games each team plays. In fact, we may want to decrease their individual playing time. On the other hand, we need to show that this format change is profitable, which usually means more matches to be sold for TV rights.

So, can we increase the number of total games played, while maintaining or decreasing the total number of games each team plays? We’ll discuss that in the next article…

Stuart also hosts Hard Line Rugby on YouTube, which focuses on rugby union in the Americas. Check it out & subscribe here!

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You can get the latest episode of our Irish Rugby Podcast here.

2027: Expanding the Rugby World Cup

Stuart Hardy

@hard_rugby

In this series, Stuart will explore the means of expanding the participation number of rugby union’s crown jewel. This series will explore why expansion is needed, which nations should join, how the new tournament will play out, and how the new structure can be implemented for following tournaments.

Part 1: Why expand?

Four years allows for a lot of change in rugby; North America can have not one, but two new professional rugby competitions. A team that played in their first Rugby World Cup final, can now only get as high as fifth in the world. A team that was eliminated in the pool stage of their own Rugby World Cup, can not only have one of the longest unbeaten runs in international rugby, but also go all the way to the next Rugby World Cup final.

https://resources.world.rugby/worldrugby/photo/2015/10/29/3fd44e5b-2803-4b9d-9bcd-6a702cc70e06/MEMORABLE_-_ENGLAND.jpg
(RugbyWorldCup.Com)

The game is growing across the world, but while the number of teams participating in qualifying has increased almost every cycle, the team limit for a men’s Rugby World Cup has stayed at 20 since 1999. While the 2023 Rugby World Cup will continue being available to only 20 qualifying teams (of which 12 have already done so,) it is expected – some would even say it’s required – that the 2027 edition should be expanded to, at the very least, 24 teams.

But why expand the number of participating teams? What is the benefit of having more teams, likely of a lower playing calibre, in rugby’s crown jewel tournament? Well, as most things in life, the main answer comes down to money.

https://www.tradeexchange.ae/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/make-money-with-stocks.jpeg
(TradeExchange.ae)

World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, gets the vast majority of its income from the Rugby World Cup, through the selling of TV rights, the hosting fee, and sponsorship deals. Although the sponsorship figure has not been made public, World Rugby earned £155million from TV rights alone for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The figures from 2019 will likely be released towards the end of 2020, and it’s highly probable that the TV revenue would be even larger.

On viewing figures and TV rights alone, having 4 more teams would make sense; more teams means more matches, which means a larger total number of games, which then means a larger amount of TV rights to sell. Considering the amount that World Rugby has had to loan out to smaller unions due to Covid-19, being able to simply have a larger supply of funds prior to any monumental, global event, such as this, happening again.

https://i0.wp.com/www.bloodandmud.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/family-watching-tv.jpg?w=1920
(BloodAndMud.Com)

As for playing calibre, it’s a bitter spiral to remain with what we have. Only the top 20 teams qualify for the Rugby World Cup, meaning other Tier 2 nations have to wait, pool their resources, and try again in 4 years time. This, then, introduces a feedback loop of unsuccessful teams, playing fewer higher-ranking opposition outside of the world cup, so they can’t improve, so they can’t qualify.

This isn’t some hyperbole either. Only 25 nations have competed at the Rugby World Cup, and since 2015, no new nation has qualified. Do I expect a match between Spain and Kenya to sell out the Stade de France? No, but keeping teams like these on the sidelines of rugby’s biggest tournament ensures a lack of competition, which turns into a lack of interest, and ultimately, a lack of revenue. Expanding to 24 teams opens up more games, more improvement for those nations, and more revenue markets for World Rugby to capitalise on.

https://www.asiarugby.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/964364006-e1527821451107.jpg
(AsiaRugby.Com)

So, how would a 24 team Rugby World Cup look like, and how would teams be able to qualify for it going forward? Well, we’ll explore that next time…

Stuart also hosts Hard Line Rugby on YouTube, which focuses on rugby union in the Americas. Check it out & subscribe here!

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