Loose Pass

Date published: August 26 2015

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_Stuart_Lancaster_England_coach_2015_RWC_draw_2012

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with World Cup draws, Ruggles the Giraffe, a rugby education and a health and safety shocker.

Back to the drawing board

The draw for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup means that one of the sport's biggest names is destined to bow out in the pool stages regardless of any upsets.

Pool A will see England, Australia and Wales all go head-to-head, alongside Fiji and Uruguay, for just two places in the quarter-finals as the result of a draw that was made way back in 2012.

Perhaps anticipating the hammer blow that would be tournament hosts England bowing out mid-tournament, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has revealed discussions are underway regarding the timing of the pool draw in the hope of preventing a repeat at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

It may help organisers to know the battle lines for the World Cup so far ahead of the tournament itself but three years is excessive especially when form, coaches and players can change week to week.

Wales had slipped out of the top eight in the rankings ahead of the draw and along with England and Fiji would have a different ranking and therefore seeding if the draw had been made ahead of the tournament.

There clearly is a case for delaying the draw for as long as possible to ensure a true reflection of current form and that the strongest sides are kept apart in the early stages of the tournament.

Given the importance of the World Cup as a promotional tool, it is imperative that the best teams and players are given the best opportunity to shine and boost the profile of the sport.

Sadly, there is no talk of a further review of the draw procedure and specifically the use of World Rugby ranking places.

The reliance on a ranking system that does not allow for smaller nations to challenge the dominance of the leading sides due to a fixture list that limits their exposure to the sport's best remains regrettable.

Education, education, education

Rugby World Cup officials must be praised for shifting nearly all of 2.3m tickets for the sport's showpiece in England and enticing thousands of fans, many new to the sport, into coughing up large amounts to sample the tournament at first hand.

These novice supporters will be briefed in the mechanics of the sport thanks to a series of videos that will be broadcast in the stadium – and also available to download before the tournament.

But come the first whistle they are in danger of being swept away by the frenetic action unless they dig even deeper for a new and improved Ref Link! device that will not only allow fans to listen to the referee but also offer explanations along with match commentary courtesy of host broadcasters ITV.

This valuable resource will set a family of four back £40 on top of their significant outlay for tickets, transport, food and drink.

With the biggest World Cup ever set to offer unprecedented exposure to thousands of people who could keep the turnstiles spinning around the country for years to come, it is disappointing no sponsor could have been sought to cover this cost and give the sport the greatest chance of not only engaging but keeping many new fans.

Who remembers Ruggles?

The 1995 Rugby World Cup is memorable for many things – the iconic image of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar, Jonah Lomu running over Mike Catt and the jumbo jet flying over Ellis Park among them – but what about Ruggles?

The rugby kit-wearing giraffe was the official mascot of the tournament – but you knew that right? It appears that poor Ruggles was not a great success as mentions of a Rugby World Cup mascot for subsequent tournaments are hard to find.

Despite FIFA's fondness of such things – remember Fuleco the Armadillo? – and the ever-present mascots at the Olympics – how could you forget Wenlock and Mandeville? – there will be no official mascot for this year's World Cup.

Not even Ruckley, England's muscle-bound mascot, will be allowed to parade around Twickenham as he is a Rugby Football Union creation – and not an official World Cup partner.

Tournament organisers insist the decision not to utilise a mascot is down to Rugby World Cup Ltd, the World Rugby subsidiary that 'owns' the tournament, who clearly do not value such a marketing commodity.

If you are looking for a cuddly companion for your World Cup journey you may have to turn to Shaun The Sheep who has been licensed by England Rugby 2015 to help promote the tournament – or if not, maybe RFU president Jason Leonard.

Health and safety shocker

Rugby union struggles as it is to attract new fans and players due to the complexity of the game so it is disappointing when it conspires to deny some the chance to play the sport.

Seven-year-old Ryan Totten has been banned from playing rugby because he needs to wear goggles due to his poor eyesight and the use of such equipment is currently prohibited by the Irish Rugby Football Union.

World Rugby is currently conducting a trial of goggles but the IRFU opted not to take part in tests and as a result they have prevented Totten from graduating from tag to contact rugby and snuffed out a career in the making.

Player welfare is of paramount importance in the elite game where power and pace are key but that is not the case as young players are just getting to grips with the physical aspects of the game.

The chances of injury because of the use of goggles, that have already met safety standards, are remote and we can only hope that the IRFU ease their restrictions and allow Totten the chance to continue his love of the game.

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

COMMENTS