Editorial: IRB must act to ensure fairer Rugby World Cup rest days

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Samoan player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu was obviously over-egging his sense of grievance when he compared the treatment of lower-rated teams at the Rugby World Cup to "slavery, like the Holocaust, like apartheid".

That is not to say, however, that he did not have a point. The number of rest days allotted to some of these countries during pool play has been a notable blemish.

There is, of course, a reason for the International Rugby Board's scheduling. Television audiences, and advertisers, in Europe want to see the bigger teams playing during peak viewing times at the weekend. That means other sides have to play midweek matches, often only a few days after a previous encounter. It is reasonable to suggest this may have played a part in Samoa's flat finish to the important game against Wales.

If this is something of an intractable problem for the IRB, it could at least ensure fairness applied to the maximum possible extent. To do otherwise negates the chance of the sort of inspiring upset that lights up such events.

The French have also ruffled feathers by selecting some second-string players to take on the All Blacks in a game they might prefer to lose. It has been suggested this tactic would be eradicated if a new draw was made after the first round.

Then, teams would not know their opponents beyond pool play.

Yet such strategising is part and parcel of international tournaments. Indeed, it is part of their fascination. Removing it would be an over-reaction.

- NZ Herald

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