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Thread: The future of rugby is in the east

  1. #1
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    The future of rugby is in the east


    The future of rugby is in the east

    by Andrew Logan - September 26th 2007

    A recent holiday in Thailand, although poorly scheduled over the early rounds of the Rugby World Cup, afforded me some interesting insights into the state of rugby in Asia. It also highlighted the mindboggling shortsightedness of the IRB - and the utter hypocrisy of the major rugby nations in the way they vote to control the destiny of the second tier rugby countries – particularly in their decision to award the 2011 World Cup to New Zealand.

    My holiday hosts Thailand currently rank 74 in the IRB World Rankings. Its neighbours Malaysia and Singapore are 70 and 53 respectively. China looks like a sleeper at 45, and then we rocket all the way up to Hong Kong at 28, on the fringes of serious rugby given that Namibia are at 24 and are featuring in the current World Cup. Korea is actually one higher at 23, and the competitive Japanese are 18th in the world as of September 24, 2007. So there is no shortage of Asian countries playing and taking the sport seriously, even though few are genuine second tier forces right now.

    Economically, Asia is the centre of world attention, and it is likely that the attention won’t wane in the next 5 or 10 years – at least while China and India (ranked 84 by the IRB) keep growing at a rate of knots and underpinning regional and world economies with their appetite for resources. The middle class lifestyles afforded by this new-found prosperity will very likely include increased leisure and involvement in sport.

    Turn on the TV in Thailand over the last few weeks and you would have found the Rugby World Cup matches broadcast both on ESPN and Star Sports, and a combination of live telecasts and replays were shown about 5 times a day every day. For the real hardcore, you could also catch The Rugby Show which gave all round updates, and even some repeat telecasts of the Hong Kong Tens – that’s right, not the the famous Hong Kong Sevens, but its little brother, the Tens.

    In Thailand, where rugby is far from the national sport, the Rugby World Cup still commanded a full page each day in the sports section of the Bangkok Post, and earlier this year, the Bangkok International Rugby Tens attracted over 20 teams from Australia, South Africa, the UK, Canada, Asia and the Pacific.

    X-treme Sports Wear, a company run by Eddie Evans (a former Canadian prop at 3 Rugby World Cups) supplies rugby gear to clubs across Asia and the globe, and has its headquarters in Bangkok.

    All this in a country which is 50 IRB rankings removed from the lowliest competitor at the current Cup.

    So the question is, if there is this much love for rugby in lowly Thailand, and if Asia as a whole is so obviously infatuated with the game - why is the next Rugby World Cup being held in New Zealand, the one country in world rugby where awareness of the game is surely at saturation point anyway, and which, as evidenced by accommodation problems during the last Lions tour, is simply to small to hold an event of this magnitude effectively?

    Japan particularly, and the Asian countries generally, are entitled to feel disgusted at the contrived IRB voting processes and narrow thinking which have ensured that rugby has missed its chance to stake a claim in the rapidly changing and newly leisure focused Asia, and rugby followers generally should be extremely concerned at the actions of those charged with developing the game globally.

    There is one part of the world where rugby growth will be explosive, far-reaching and lucrative if handled correctly.

    It’s unfortunately not New Zealand.

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  2. #2
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    And the bit I really don't get is that is not even a funding exercise for the NZRFU, as they are forecasting a loss of $30-48M for the whole thing.

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  3. #3
    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    They have better RWC coverage over there than here!

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  4. #4
    Immortal Contributor jono's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    why isnt that surprising...
    bet they have faster broadband as well

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