Rugby Bits & Bites

So much good stuff to share … RWC and what not, but first the fluff!

• Did you know that billionaire Mark Cuban is a former rugby player? Neither did I. This former No. 8 at Indiana University owns the Dallas Mavericks and barely made the cut last night on the newest season of Dancing with the Stars.

• Clint Eastwood may direct a new movie about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman may play Mandela and Matt Damon may play South African captain Francois Piennar.

It will focus on events surrounding the Rugby World Cup in South Africa 12 years ago and how Mandela used the tournament — won by the host nation — to bring whites and blacks together.

Mandela appeared in a South Africa jersey to present the trophy to captain Piennar after the final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, which has become an iconic moment in the history of the country and sport.

I’d like to see this movie, not only for the rugby, but because of showing how sports bring people together.

And after recently watching Damon play Jason Bourne, I think a rugby player won’t be a stretch.

• Elsewhere in Africa, the Zimbabwe women’s national team will play its first-ever home international match against Zambia.

• I stumbled upon this blog this morning, a student at the University of Florida is following student-athletes for the semester and recently interviewed the women’s rugby team with a podcast.

• A new link – this guy is the “self-appointed guru of all things rugby union” at What is Rugby? Now added to my sidebar.

Added: Just got a nice e-mail from Vic at What is Rugby?. He’s just moved to Wisconsin!

And on to RWC news …

• Bad balls?! New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter has asked the IRB to investigate the balls being used at the RWC, says the balls used in practice are different from the game balls.

• And the All Blacks don’t care what jersey color they wear (gray, black or white), despite all the hubbub.

“We’re not too concerned about it. We want to put on the track what we are all about. At the end of the day we’re black all over, inside and out.

“The players are far more focused on doing what’s right and performing the best they can.”

Are 20 teams too many for the RWC? Supporters of the larger format say no and that the so-called “Minnows” are helping expand the game globally and nipping at the heels of the big teams.

• Speaking of Second Teir teams, Portugal and Japan head home with “heads held high”.

• England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinsin applauds the southern hemisphere teams

“The display so far from the Southern Hemisphere teams has been massively impressive and no more so than the likes of Samoa and Tonga,” he said. “They have the ability to completely light up the field and crowds are so much enjoying that style of rugby.

“There’s a lot to be learned from that. The professionalism and the kind of ruthless attitude being shown at the moment by the likes of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand is great. They, at the moment, are leading the rugby world and showing us the way forward. It’s up to everyone else now to follow that path.”

And then says “It’s a good wakeup call for guys like us who maybe feel we’re not where we need to be right now. But we’re working towards it.”

Were the ticket prices for the RWC too high? Wales thinks so. The IRB says no way.

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1 Comment

Filed under 2007 Men's Rugby World Cup, articles, links, Rugby: Bits and Bites

One response to “Rugby Bits & Bites

  1. Alan

    For a long time, I resisted arguments that 20 teams was too much. I remembered how frustrated I was that the US had to miss out in 1995 (and I assume the Fijians felt the same way). Even though we wouldn’t have done well, I thought that we needed to be there, just to show ourselves as part of the world of rugby. And as important as it was for us and other minor nations, I felt that the tournament needed more variety, more of an international flavor than the original 8 countries and a few assorted hangers on.

    However, as time went on, I started to change my mind. In 2003, there were so many games that were utter humiliations. It appeared that the professional era was separating the rich from the poor, and that the tournament was becoming a farce. No one seemed to benefit when half the matches seemed to have margins between 50 and 100 points, when picking the order of finish in each pool was patently obvious, and when the extra teams increased the length and expense of the tournament so much. I thought we might ultimately be better served by having two simultaneous 12-team tournaments. Each would be more competitive with fewer pointless matches, and the minnows would actually gain some real benefit by playing meaningful matches against their peers.

    And then this year came along. Georgia, who finished in last place in their 1st round qualifying pool for 1995 (behind Germany and Poland) suddenly found themselves losing respectably to Argentina and nearly beating Ireland (which would have been the biggest upset in the history of sports). The Eagles were respectable against England, Romania nearly took Italy, Japan ran Fiji close, and Tonga just missed against South Africa (almost as big an upset as Georgia-Ireland would have been). Despite a few big scores here and there, parity is greater than it has been since 1987 and 1991…maybe even more than those years because of the increase in teams.

    And now, I would hate to lose the opportunity and momentum that this RWC can provide. I’m starting to come around to the notion that someday we can have a world cup that’s almost as competitive as the soccer one.

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