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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is A Good RWC Vital To The Eagles Future?


It bears repeating that even though the Eagles are playing well, arguably better than they have in years, they are not favored to win any of their World Cup matches. All four of their pool opponents are ranked above them and the U.S. has struggled recently against them in recent meetings. The goal for the team is to make the quarterfinals and even if they fall short of that an automatic qualifying place for the 2019 World Cup would be a great achievement. They've never registered two wins at a World Cup and if they can do that this go around it will be their best tournament to date.

But a question must be asked, does the team risk any future gains if they come up empty handed? There is a lot on the plate for the future. There have long been rumors a coming professional league and as Patrick Johnston noted this last week, Super Rugby officials are interested in the U.S. and Canada in case Japan's license is taken away (or even if it stays).

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Those goals are great and will certainly help advance rugby in the United States but at the same time, Super Rugby officials, or even World Rugby officials, may be very hesitant to expand to the U.S. or give the U.S. more Tier I matches (like they've done with Japan having Wales tour the country), if the U.S. can't be up to snuff in terms of play. The lack of depth in American rugby was one of the biggest stumbling blocks mentioned in possibly expanding Super Rugby to the U.S. in the past.

Those questions aren't unique to the Eagles. Japan still face those questions even after getting their Super Rugby license. They already have a fully professional team and have beaten Wales in the past. Canada face similar questions as well. Even the Pacific Islands nations, which have beaten Tier I countries on a regular basis, are in the same boat.

The bottom line is that if the Eagles want to move up in the minds of Tier I countries who hold all the power they need to do well at the World Cup. Being a competitive side is one thing but wins are important as well. When you talk to the players and coaches on the team they feel the same way. No matter who they play and lose to they are pissed off. They don't really care about what Tier I nations think of them but they are competitive and they want to win. Winning gets attention and it gets momentum.

At the same time, beating Tier nations is a two-edged sword. Sure, World Rugby is pushing for teams like Fiji to play Tier I nations regularly but at the same time those nations don't really want to potentially pick up an embarrassing loss. It's similar to NCAA football. Teams that want to play for a national championship aren't going to risk picking up a loss when they could pound another team by 50 points.

Still, as we mentioned winning brings more respect and attention. The Eagles, like all Tier II nations, need to make a lot of noise at this World Cup to shake things up. The World Cup risks stagnation unless a couple of Tier I nations miss out on the quarterfinals and if the World Cup stagnates, you can say goodbye to gaining more attention in America.



2 comments:

  1. It is a mathematical certainty that a couple of Tier 1 nations will miss out on the quarterfinals. At least one of them will come from Pool A, the other from Pool D. Hopefully there will be more, which will help make it an interesting tournament, but I don't think there is danger of stagnation quite yet, as long as there are competitive games throughout.

    But I wouldn't worry about more attention in America. It's not as if RWC or World Rugby is doing much to fight for attention right now. At present, the attention that it gets is pretty much a function of the work done domestically to build the game.

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  2. Wait america is at the rugby world cup? Funny I did not see this on any news network? Where can I, the uninitiated fan tune in? What? At $200 dollars!!! I think I will stick with the NFL and college game day. Let me know when your sport is accessible. Maybe I will give it a try then.

    Sincerely,

    Casual sports fan.

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