Rugby must stop hindering smaller nations

John Inverdale
THOSE of you reading this who went to Twickenham on Saturday to see England’s demolition of Fiji know you were sold something of a pup.

The blame lies at the door of the International Rugby Board who continue to allow the distinction between the haves and have nots of the game to be a blight on the sport.

Fiji turned up to play in front of 80,000 people having had a solitary training session in which to prepare, and minus many leading players who were unavailable because their clubs felt no compunction, and faced no sanction, for not releasing them.

The inability, or refusal, of the sport's governing body to make the improvement of the so-called second and third nations its primary driving force means that we are heading towards another World Cup in three years’ time when the only question will be which of the usual suspects misses out on a quarter-final berth.

The first weekend of the autumn internationals offered one encouraging sign for the future, though. Argentina, for so long the travelling minstrels of the game fighting insurmountable odds and occasionally overcoming them, turned up at Cardiff like a well-oiled machine, and scored two sensational tries.

After a first year playing in the Southern Hemisphere Championship, they looked like a team that could be serious contenders come a World Cup in 2019, or maybe 2023 when, by rights, the competition should be based around Buenos Aires.

The game’s premier tournament needs teams like Argentina, Italy, Fiji and even Russia and Georgia to become serious players – otherwise its pretence to be a global sport will remain just that: a pretence.

And a reflection on the weekend past would not be complete without a mention of the total absolute sporting genius on show at Murrayfield. Even the staunchest Manchester United fan left the Champions League final at Wembley 18 months ago marvelling at the brilliance of Lionel Messi. And even the most one-eyed of Scottish rugby fans departed Edinburgh yesterday proud to say they had seen New Zealand’s Dan Carter in his pomp. The feints, the sidesteps, the passing, the change of pace, the awareness, the kicking, the tackling, the everything. It’s physical and it’s brutal, but when Dan Carter plays the game it is genuinely a thing of beauty. If only its administrators had his vision.