The period between the end of pool play and the quarter-finals of any international tournament is usually a time to pause and gather breath for the high-intensity encounters ahead. Usually, nothing too much happens. That hasn't been the case at this Rugby World Cup, however.

The players and management of some of the eliminated nations have exited the event not with the customary whimper but an angry roar.

If in cases such as that of Samoa's Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, colourful language and references detracted from the message, it was, nonetheless, one that the International Rugby Board cannot ignore.

The biggest grievance is that the smaller nations had much less recovery time, with many of their matches played midweek. In contrast, and in response to the television audience on the other side of the world, the bigger nations played mainly at the weekend.


This meant the United States, for example, played Ireland and Russia within five days, and Georgia took on England and Scotland in the same week.

Samoa, for its part, played a crucial match against Wales just four days after beating Namibia. In response, Fuimaono-Sapolu's com-plaints stood out only for their degree of vehemence. US captain Todd Clever made the same point when he said "it hasn't been ideal".

Various ways to level the playing field have been suggested. Rugby World Cup 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden suggested the tournament should be a week longer.

Yet there is already a sense that it's quite long enough, even given the physical demands of the game. Soccer's World Cup lasts just 28 days, compared with 45 days for this event.

It is, therefore, possible to sympathise with those who say the tournament would be improved if it were truncated. But many of the suggestions for doing this spell ill for development of the smaller nations.

Most involve fewer teams, or the small nations playing most, if not all, their games in a plate competition.

Both these ideas would mean taking much of the "world" out of the World Cup. Equally, the smaller countries must play against the best in the world if they are to improve. What the competition must ensure is that they do this on as equal a footing as possible.

This could be achieved, and the event could be shortened considerably, if all teams were required to play twice a week.


This would hark back to the old-style tours when the All Blacks customarily played on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Their playing strength meant this was rarely a problem.

It would be little different if, for example, New Zealand's pool games in this tournament had involved Tonga (Saturday), Japan (Wednesday), France (Saturday) and Canada (Wednesday).

The smaller countries would have more of a problem without the same player depth.

But that would reflect the strength of the game in each of them, not be a wound inflicted by an IRB directive.

There would still be some score blow-outs. That is a feature of any true international tournament. New Zealand has been on the receiving end of many drubbings in sports in which it's a minor player.

The chance to compete is always relished, however. Rugby should be no different, and all countries should compete on an equal playing field.