Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue on the Rugby World Cup: IRB has duty to deliver fair schedules

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The clash between Fiji and Samoa had a Six Nations feel to it. Photo / Getty Images
The clash between Fiji and Samoa had a Six Nations feel to it. Photo / Getty Images

What do you do when a couple of Rugby World Cup darlings won't play ball?

Having derided Northern Hemisphere teams for failing to live up to our oh-so-lofty Southern rugby standards, an unexpected boilover was taking place at Eden Park.

Fiji and Samoa were entertaining like Scotland. Samoa were kicking goals like Jonny Wilkinson. The Pacific Nations had turned all Six Nations. Oops, how embarrassing, although it is possible to knock the northerners even when they are nowhere near the scene of the crime.

A French rugby reporter of long standing claimed, a bit cheekily, that this was the most boring game in the tournament so far.

The crowd carried this match until late tries arrived. Hearing such a din, seeing the flags (including one for the Warriors) and feeling the tarted-up stadium come alive, was terrific. A section would turn red for Samoa, then magically blue for Fiji.

New Zealand rugby has struggled along in near-empty construction sites this year. The World Cup has come to the rescue, putting juice in the veins.

No offence, Fiji, but I was feeling a touch Samoan. Grey Lynn had apparently adopted the Samoan team and this felt like an honour.

One night last week, Samoan supporters descended upon our shops and set up shop, saying they were raising money to support the team. Late into a cold night, women were still selling a delicious bacon hock soup, although the pineapple pies had long gone. Where was all the IRB money, I wondered?

There was something nice about the late fete, and something disturbing.

A World Cup was on, and you could connect with one of the teams at a local fair. But England don't sell Cornish pasties for the cause.

And the well-connected heavyweights don't face the sort of playing schedule the Pacific Islanders have been landed with.

Samoa's victory yesterday means they can still beat Wales for a place in the quarter-finals.

But where Samoa have a five-day break before trying to upset South Africa in their final Pool D game, the Springboks get eight days.

If we get the IRB drift right, the tournament would have to be trimmed to create a level playing field, so trim they must.

Giving all contenders an equal shot at making the playoffs should be mandatory as opposed to scheduling against certain teams in order to accommodate Namibia and Co, who are out of their depth. Eight days versus five is an insult in a heavy-contact sport.

The fundraising food stalls are wonderful. But what Fiji, Samoa and Tonga require are strong advocates in the halls of power. They need to set out their stall.

Their teams are professionally orientated and no longer rely on wild or frilly football. Their administrators should follow suit. They might consider taking a case to the international sports court because this is about natural justice. The soup may be needed again to support that cause.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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