Time For Change
As the group stage of the 2015 World Cup comes to a close over the next few days. We will see the top 2 sides in each of the 4 groups progress to the Quarter Finals. Today for instance will see Georgia take on Namibia and South Africa will face the USA.
Japan have of course have been the stand out team of the so called tier 2 nations, beating South Africa 34-32 in week 1. They played a nice brand of attacking rugby that allowed them to attack South Africa at the break down and also in the scrum.
They of course have a professional league that has seen some high profile southern hemisphere players ply their trade in the league. The likes of George Smith , Fourie Du Preez , JP Pieterson and Nick Cummins otherwise known as the “ Honey Badger” have all spent time playing the top Japanese League.
This has all been a huge benefit the national team with Fuimaki Tanaka playing with the Otago Highlanders in the Super Rugby competition along with team captain Micheal Letitch who plays with the Waikato Chiefs. They also have a strong coaching team led by Eddie Jones with Steve Borthwick and Mark Del Maso.
You can see all the hall marks of the good coaching and what that has done for Japan. The don’t try and play a game that wouldn’t suit them like going toe to toe with the bigger teams and being physical. They are smart at the breakdown , they are also cleaver at the line out and they have one or two set moves that have caused the opposition problems. The other key problem that the smaller teams have suffered from is that they do not have a player that can consistently convert chances when they arise.
The Japanese however have solved that issue with a quality 10 that has converted most of the chances that have come his way. That in turn has seen them pick up two wins from three games and they still have a slim chance of making the World Cup quarter finals. Aside from Japan, Georgia have been another team playing at this World Cup with great freedom. They will go for a second win in the group over Namibia this evening.
These two teams have again shown World Rugby that it isn’t just the top nations that have been putting in the hard graft. Japan will have a team in the expanded Super Rugby competition from 2016 and this will push on their development no end. Argentina will also have a team in the 2016 Super Rugby competition. Back in 2007 Argentina made the world sit up and take notice by finishing 3rd at that year’s World Cup.
From a European point of view Georgia deserve great credit and to this end , I feel there should be some sort of benefit for their good performances at this year’s World Cup. Tradition is strong in the game of rugby union and for that reason World Rugby may be very slow to change and give these national sides something to work towards and that is promotion and relegation in the two main International competitions, The Six Nations and The Rugby Championship.
This would mean that all 6 teams in the Six Nations would have something to play for into the last day and in turn would give all the other teams that play in the Nations Cup something to fight for. It also makes sense as Rugby makes its debut at the 2016 Olympics and we will see all the countries that have had great success at 7s take to the world stage and fight for gold in Rio. Countries like Russia , Holland , Scotland , Wales to name just 4 countries that have been on the world stage competing in the HSBC World Series. Ireland of course made a delayed return to 7s action after a few years away.
Here’s hoping World Rugby see fit to give the so called Tier 2 nations a chance.
Cian Mc Gibney