November 09, 2006

Speculation about the Pumas: Argentina have been challenging some of the best teams in world rugby lately, but can they really compete if they rarely get the chance to play against the very best? Some commentators want the Pumas to join one of the established international competitions. So is the Six Nations to become the Seven Nations? Or will the tri-nations become the quad-nation?

posted by Fence to other at 07:43 AM - 8 comments

I was just reading that exact same Guardian article with interest. It's a nice idea for the Pumas to join one of the big competitions, but the bickering would almost certainly ensure it doesn't happen. The comments in the Guardian article suggest adding yet another team to the 6N to make it the "Eight Nations", with two pools of 4 teams and a playoff to decide the winner. Interesting idea? The traditionalists would go mental though; hell, I'm only 24 and remember when it was the five nations! With so many international matches every year, does it take some of the gloss off playing for your country? I was thinking about this whilst watching the Wales v Australia match. You have all-time legendary players like Barry John who retired with only 25 caps to his name, yet you now have mediocre players like Gareth Thomas heading towards 100. There were times when the whole of Wales would stop to watch a match against New Zealand, yet now we are virtually assured of playing them every year (sometimes more). A seven or eight nations competition would be kinda cheap, in my opinion. And the Argies joining the Tri-Nations would just be logistically impossible. They're on the opposite side of the world from Australia and NZ, and most of their players are in Europe anyway. Personally, I would prefer a sustained push to develop the game in the US and Canada, with the ultimate goal of a yearly international contest in the Americas. Perhaps with Argentina, Uruguay, the US and Canada.

posted by afx237vi at 09:10 AM on November 09, 2006

By the way, I can't wait for the England-Argentina match at the weekend. The should be helluva game.

posted by afx237vi at 09:14 AM on November 09, 2006

Argentina has definitely become a great rugby nation in the past 8 or so years. I don't think anyone else should be joining the Six Nations - in fact, I'm not sure Italy really fits in there either. But that's a different issue. Being in the Southern Hemisphere I think it makes more sense to join Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in an annual tourney. I guess the objection in the article about the fact that most Pumas play for French club teams is an issue - but then if they're not able or willing to overcome that internally, then maybe they *shouldn't* be tapped to join the tri-nations. There is a need for a greater range of annually scheduled competition in Rugby in general as well. Maybe instead of Italy, some of the other second-tier nations should be invited on a rotating basis to play in the 5/6-Nations? Perhaps an annual, Europe-based tournament with Italy, Romania, a couple of the other European minnows and Canada/US would be cool as well. I'm a little disappointed that the PacRim never really took off. Canada, the US and the other Pacific Rim countries except NZ but including Argentina would be a great tourney.

posted by mikelbyl at 09:20 AM on November 09, 2006

There is already a second tier contest for the European minnows. It has Romania, Spain, Georgia and some others. To be honest, I think it would be drastically unfair to relegate Italy now that they've become an established international team. They may not win many 6N matches, but they generally make a tough game for their opponents, and at least they're now fully packed with professionals.

posted by afx237vi at 09:49 AM on November 09, 2006

A couple of points worth commenting on: - Yes, international rugby has been cheapened by the fact that the major nations play each other virtually every year. Sending out 'trial' squads to play Test matches has become the norm between World Cups. Football has designated 'friendlies' outside World Cup and continental championship qualification matches, which, it should be noted, are tournaments that take place every 4 years, not annually. - Argentina would be a good addition to the Tri-Nations, however two things work against them, the release of players from European clubs (as has been noted), and the greater travel involved, including across a huge number of time zones. Buenos Aires is closer in travel time to Europe than the Antipodes, and within a reasonable spread of longitude. Which is also better for the TV market in Europe (and in South America, if anyone in Argentian watches rugby on TV, that is).

posted by owlhouse at 01:32 PM on November 09, 2006

Surely part of the problem is that there aren't enough countries that play rugby to a high level. In football there are so many countries that you can go years without playing the same opposition again, whereas in rugby the differences between teams are so marked that it makes very little sense for the likes of New Zealand to play a developing team.

posted by Fence at 03:19 AM on November 10, 2006

But for a team to develop they must be regularly playing, but Argentina only play a handful of games a year. I think they should do what Italy have done and join the 6 nations as the tri nations would be a step to far for them. But it will come down to whether Argentina has a bid enough fan base and if they want to travel so much for each game.

posted by Daley at 03:52 PM on November 11, 2006

England 18 - Argentina 25. The rugby powers, if they want to grow the game, get into the Olympics and so forth, must make more effort to engage the second tier nations, like Canada, US, Tonga, Samoa, etc. And yes, as the scoreline above, shows, Argentina -- who right now at least, are pretty much a top tier nation based on recent results. Having the second tier always playing itself does not further player development, more to the point, it does not increase interest which is what breeds long term success. This victory over England at Tw. will only fan a huge upsurge in the game in Argentina. (FWIW, I've flown heathrow-buneos aires and it is not a bad trip, 11 hours or so, nonstop, and only a few time zones.)

posted by rumple at 01:46 AM on November 12, 2006

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