Loose Pass

Date published: September 15 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with some World Cup predictions, a new name for a familiar face and the All Blacks brand.

World Cup prediction time…

The Rugby World Cup is now only a few days away so it seems right to offer some predictions for the feast of rugby we are set to be treated to over the next couple of months.

Firstly, believe the hype. This will be the biggest and best World Cup ever in terms of crowds and exposure, let's just hope the rugby can live up to the billing.

Winners? New Zealand. They know how to get things done in this part of the world at this time of year and as much as they play down the emotion surrounding the imminent departure of the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu – that same powerful emotion will propel them to historic back-to-back victories.

Player of the tournament? The Wallabies may come up short in their quest for what would be a third World Cup victory on UK soil but Izzy Folau will underline his outstanding ability with a string of eye-catching performances and sack load of tries.

Biggest upset? Samoa to return to the quarter-finals at the expense of Pool D rivals Scotland – and Fiji to prove a thorn in Wales' side once again.

Biggest controversy? A potential match-winning try in the final to be disallowed due to an off-the-ball incident brought to light by Hawk-Eye technology.

Best game? South Africa and Samoa to quite literally go head-to-head in a bruising and brilliant clash at Villa Park.

Best moment? The same two sides to put the ferocity to one side at the end of their epic encounter and unite in prayer.

Biggest tackle? Take your pick from Tonga v Georgia. Best dressed? Close call between Fiji (trousers), Tonga (blazers) and Samoa (sarongs).

Worst decision? To allow the England squad access to their Twitter accounts.

Best venue? The traditional rugby venues of Kingsholm and Sandy Park to rival Twickenham for the best atmosphere.

Biggest feed? Tonga to celebrate surviving a schedule that demands they play Namibia, Argentina and New Zealand in the space of 11 days by going on a Nandos crawl around Newcastle and eating the Geordies out of spicy chicken.

What's in a name?

The Welsh Rugby Union's decision to sell the naming rights to the Millennium Stadium to the Principality Building Society was not a surprise given the trend for such commercial deals – it is just staggering that it took so long for such a deal to be struck.

The iconic ground was unveiled in 1999 but despite the significant cost of the stadium the rights have only now being sold – over 15 years later.

This is one of the most high-profile rugby venues in the world, the centre piece of a rugby-mad nation and not just the Welsh game, where tens of thousands of fans gather and millions of eyeballs descend each year – yet the WRU have until now chosen not to leverage its appeal.

The fact they have now done so should be celebrated by Welsh fans and they should not mourn the loss of the Millennium Stadium name for too long – instead they should query the reported value of the deal.

It is suggested the 10-year-deal will boost the WRU coffers in the region of £15m – no official figure was released – which will provide a significant boost to Welsh rugby at all levels of the game – but surely the exposure offered in the Six Nations alone during that time may be worth a little more?

In contrast, Aviva paid a reported £29m in 2009 for the right to put their name on the Irish Rugby Union and Football Association of Ireland 's stadium in Dublin – again in a 10-year deal.

Similarly, Scottish Rugby pocketed an estimated £20m after agreeing to sell the naming rights to Murrayfield to BT in a four-year deal announced last year.

Principality also did well to ensure that 'Millennium' did not remain part of the stadium's new name ensuring their identity could not be easily edited out when the media and fans are referencing the venue.

Scottish Rugby may well have valued the history behind a stadium that first opened its doors in 1925 a little more – or feared a backlash from fans.

Rest assured that the naming rights for France's new 82,000 capacity 'Grand Stade' in Evry, that is due to open in 2017, will also be sold and generate an even greater windfall for the French Rugby Federation.

Only the Rugby Football Union, the world's richest union, can resist such a move – but for how long? Corporations would be falling over themselves to have their name adorn Twickenham were they to lift the World Cup crown…

Is there nothing the NZRU will not license?

One union clearly not shy of a commercial deal or two is the New Zealand Rugby Union.

The All Blacks are certainly aware of the power of their brand and the ability of their world-famous shirt to generate a dollar or two. Since arriving in the UK the All Blacks appear to have been just as busy meeting the polite demands of sponsors as they have been preparing for their World Cup opener against Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

But the commercial onslaught has reached fever pitch back home.

A tweet that caught my eye this week illustrated how a trip to the supermarket can highlight just how far the NZRU will go to bank roll the future of the game with the silver fern adorning such products as breakfast cereal, chocolate and milk.

This variety of products may not surprise those of you who remember the All Blacks penning a partnership deal with an 'amphibious boat producer' not so long ago but what about an endorsement deal with a nappies manufacturer? I kid you not. 

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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