RWC under threat?

A proposed annual match between the Tri-Nations and Six Nations champions could devalue the World Cup.

The IRB’s plan will be discussed by the governing body and the world’s leading rugby nations in Hong Kong on Sunday. The Hong Kong Rugby Union, which will host an All Blacks-Wallabies Test later this year, is also keen to stage the inter-hemisphere clash.

“While nothing’s been finalised yet, all parties, including the government, have welcomed the idea with great enthusiasm,” said Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director Allan Payne. “This support should give rugby officials a big boost as they make a play to host the touted global championship.”

However, an inter-hemisphere match could have a negative impact on the World Cup – the jewel in the IRB’s crown. If the All Blacks won the Tri-Nations this year and then beat Wales (for example), they could claim to be the best team on the planet even though the Boks are the reigning world champions. Would the World Cup matter as much, if there was an annual “World Cup final”?

And how relevant would this new “global championship” be if Argentina, currently third on the IRB world rankings, are unable to qualify for it. While the Pumas will be playing matches against the southern-hemisphere’s Big Three this year, they won’t form part of the Tri-Nations.

There’s also the question of when this match will be played in an already overcrowded schedule. The northern-hemisphere nations will push for it to happen in November or December, when their season is well underway, but the southern-hemisphere season would be nearing an end, and its players preparing to put their feet up. The south would rather the game took place at the end of the Tri-Nations in August or September.