Monday’s inbox looks at the opening up the Rugby World Cup to more teams, and Gloucester's mixed bag against Leicester.
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From 20 to 24
To truly utilise the spectacular, drama-packed debut of Sevens at the Olympics, the rugby world must be inclusive to new rugby markets in the 15-a-side game. With this in mind, the expansion of the Rugby World Cup to 24 countries could be a next step forward to making rugby a truly global sport.
The format could be similar to that of the now deceased club competition, the Heineken Cup. Six pools of four, followed by a knockout round of either the top 8 or 16 teams of the pool stages. Additional qualifying slots would go to Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
Critics would argue that it would simply produce more uncompetitive fixtures, with a top side like the All Blacks running rings round a team such as Hong Kong. This ocurred in the early tournaments after the World Cup was expanded from 16 teams to 20, with some minnows even conceding over 100 points to rugby powerhouses. But with time, nations dramatically improved due to exposure to top level opponents. In Georgia 's first World Cup in 2003, they lost every game by a margin of 12 points or greater, and received an absolute thumping by England (losing 84-6). Since then Georgia have developed into competitive opposition at the recent RWC, with a third-place finish, and rugby has become one of the country's national sports.
This brave move could catalyse potential rugby giants. Imagine the new fan bases in South America (who currently have just one major team at RWCs, with Uruguay only featuring sporadically) if a side like Brazil competed at rugby's global showpiece. A nation like Zimbabwe would see their chances of qualification dramatically increased with this proposal, which could possibly help them retain top-level eligible talent such as Exeter Chiefs duo Don Armand and Dave Ewers.
The current format leaves little room for the growth of sides currently not qualifying for World Cups. The most recent tournament saw just one change in participants (Uruguay qualifying instead of Russia) and was the first World Cup without a debutant. Expanding the competition to 24 teams is undoubtedly a risk, but the benefits could help take the sport to the next level.
Oh Gloucester my Gloucester
If you asked me to show you one game that defined my beloved Glos as a club it would be Friday night's performance against Leicester.
Lost the game when Burns had to be subbed at half-time, had no tempo to the attack in second half. Twelvetrees average in a backline that excelled for the first 50 (how many times have we heard that).
Still, first 50 minutes were extremely promising, with a bit more fitness and better luck with injuries this 'could' be the year that Gloucester kick on and finish in a decent position after recent years condemnation to the bottom half.
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