Fair play to World Rugby, they have at least nailed the sales job on why they are looking to expand the World Cup from 20 to 24 teams.

It is, so they say, all about providing more opportunities for emerging nations so the game can grow in new markets.

There is some truth to that well spun argument but not enough to divert anyone with even a modest dose of cynicism from realising that expansion is not being driven by a feel-good tale of inclusion and opportunity, but by cold, hard cash.

More teams means more money. It's that simple. More teams means bigger TV audiences which means more money for broadcast rights and sponsorships.


And that's not such a bad thing to be driven by commercial rather than rugby imperatives.

World Rugby shouldn't be ashamed of milking the World Cup for it remains their one and only pay day.

Almost every dollar they spend on developing the game is generated from the World Cup so if they want to try to drive the revenue higher by expanding, there is justification.

But that doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. If World Rugby really wants to give lower-ranked nations a better route to develop, why not provide them with regular test football against Tier One nations?

Coming to a World Cup every four years to be annihilated by the All Blacks and the other Tier One heavyweights hardly seems the right way to develop the playing prowess of the likes of Spain, Germany and Hong Kong who are presumably the sorts of nations who will fill the extra World Cup places should they be created.

Instead, why not build a more inclusive regular test schedule that sees the likes of New Zealand play in Tibilisi against Georgia? Why not make sure that Germany play the likes of Italy and Scotland every year?

Wouldn't Samoa have a better chance of fulfilling their obvious potential if they had the guarantee of annual home tests against the likes of England and Wales?

Look how much Japan have improved since they were hammered by the All Blacks in 1995. In 2015 they pulled off the shock of the tournament when they beat the Springboks, but their progression wasn't accelerated simply by coming to a World Cup every four years.


Japan have become a more serious international force because they have had more exposure to serious international competition in between World Cups.

They have had regular tests against all the major Tier One nations and particularly strong exposure to the likes of Georgia, Italy, Samoa and Tonga.

Playing teams that are at or about the same level with a few fixtures against those that are clearly above, is the way Japan have improved.

This surely is the path that would work best for the likes of Belgium, Russia, Canada and Romania who have committed players but not always the fixture lists to grow them.

World Rugby needs to be thinking about the best order in which to place the cart and the horse as expanding the World Cup to 24 teams is putting the wrong one in front of the other.

Build a meaningful schedule for the emerging nations and then expand the World Cup to 24 teams.