World Cup Warm-Ups Should Be A Chance For Developing Nations
Before I start I’ll give my thoughts on last weekends game. England were miles ahead of us and look ready for the World Cup, they will likely top their group over France and Argentina. I don’t care about the scoreline, these are the only friendlies in international rugby. The performance on the other hand is important, and it was fairly shambolic. Read Jeff's write-up if you want a more indepth look.
I never liked World Cup warm-ups. They seem like they are just a chance for players to get injured. High intensity games against competitors aren’t really going to help anything, at this stage in the build-up teams aren’t going to come up with anything drastic and they don’t want to give anything away, so they’re just games for the sake of games.
But there is an opportunity for development here. Contenders don’t need to play hard hitting games, and as I’ve wrote and spoken about before, lower tier nations don’t play enough games. Here are the highest-ranked teams from each region who did not qualify for the World Cup.
I’d propose these teams tour around nations who are in the World Cup and play them in friendlies. For Example, Spain could play Ireland, England, & Wales. Hong Kong could play Fiji, Japan, & Tonga. Brazil could play Uruguay, & Argentina. Zimbabwe could play Namibia, & South Africa. Even if most of the teams listed above get a chance to play one team in the World Cup that would greatly benefit them.
And this could be made into a proper international window where there are fixtures for every team. Ireland aren’t going to learn anything about themselves playing England and Wales at this stage, because they are just going to be trying not to get hurt while giving players game time. If they played smaller nations in the build-up, that would allow them to test out more players, and play at a lower intensity.
I’d argue that during the November internationals, Tier 1 nations should play 2 of their 4 games against Tier 2 or lower nations. It gives these teams a genuine chance to improve themselves. It would require World Rugby to back the smaller nations with actual funding.
It’s not necessary to disrupt competitions like the Victoria Cup and Oceania Rugby Cup for these friendlies either. Those tournaments could be moved earlier. Having tier 1 nations play against lower tier nations would be beneficial to all involved. It would make it less likely players would get injured, and would help lower tier nations develop. It would also be an opportunity for double-headers with the womens team. And it would be a chance to play these games around the country rather than always in Dublin.
Ciarán is the Producer and Presenter of Post to Post Sport (@PostToPostSport), a sports podcast that covers rugby, football, wrestling, and Irish Sport News. You can get their podcasts on MixCloud our Spotify (Search PostToPostSport) and PlayerFM (Post to Post Sport).