IRB chief executive Brett Gosper has today confirmed that they are looking to change the way the World Cup is scheduled. There was widespread anger from the smaller nations at the 2011 tournament in New Zealand, as the traditional powerhouses often had a week between games while the so-called ‘minnows’ found themselves with midweek and weekend games.
The idea was to get the big teams playing at the weekends in order to maximise television audiences, but this left smaller teams with half the time to recover after games, putting them at a huge disadvantage seeing as they have smaller player-bases anyway.
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, the notoriously outspoken Samoa centre, was just one to have a pop at the IRB over the schedule of the 2011 tournament. “Ok, it’s obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales get 7 days, we get 3. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid. —- U” he tweeted at the time.
Gosper has said that the schedule for the 2015 tournament in England, set to be released some time in April/May, has been adjusted to deal with this issue of rest days. “There’s very strong fairness in terms of rest periods and so on. It will be the same for all teams,” he told assembled reporters. “It will be far more equal compared to the last World Cup.”
The IRB head honcho also said they were working to address the issue of European clubs not releasing some of their players for the tournament, a problem that further blighted several smaller nations in 2011. A meeting was recently held with representatives from the French and English leagues, in which they were told they faced sanctions if they refused to let players go.
Gosper admitted, however, that it was a tough measure to actually enforce, claiming there would always be manners to get around it. “It’s a bit like tax-dodging, there are always going to be around-the-fringes issues,” he said. “Maybe things will happen behind our backs that we can’t quite control. All we can do is make sure that the intentions behind regulation nine are imposed as best as they possibly can be and made as robust as possible.”