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Comment: Rugby World Cup endorsement shows that money still talks loudest at top table of our game

 

By Tony Ward

Were I a betting man, which I am anything but, the family jewels would have been dug out and stacked behind Ireland getting the official 'consultancy' nod ahead of the vote for the staging of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Nothing has been decided yet but it is clear, with the Irish bid apparently third in the pecking order, that money still holds sway in decision making at the top table of World Rugby.

I am a long way from the inner sanctum but if ever opportunity knocked to take the game's biggest tournament to uncharted territory, this was it.

Yes, we've shared in the third-largest event in world sport in times past but this was, and still is, the chance to take the Rugby World Cup to one of its longest-standing members on their own for the first time.

We are not comparing like with like but for those of us involved in the inaugural World Cup in 1987, shared between Australia and New Zealand, that tournament was an eye-opener in many respects.

Chief among them was the poor quality of the stadia or 'paddocks and sheds', as was the Kiwi terminology.

Aside from the debacle of James Last's 'Rose of Tralee' being used as our national anthem, in that opening game the playing and changing facilities were archaic.

For that match in Wellington against Wales in Athletic Park - the obvious pool decider before a ball was kicked - the replacements that day, myself included, had to tog out in the showers because of a lack of space in 'the shed'.

No sooner had we got our gear on in wet and windy Wellington then head coach Mick Doyle, in his inimitable manner, was telling us to f*** off out as we were taking up too much space.

The match was barely under way when one of our number - Jim Glennon - was called into action.

The game was still amateur for that inaugural tournament, or so we were led to believe prior to touching down in Christchurch and Auckland.

The only amateur aspect to the All Black preparation was the facilities, which were shockingly sub-standard.

It is quite ironic that we are apparently being castigated 30 years on for our stadia - so many of them state-of-the-art - not being up to the level required.

I was shocked by this preliminary outcome. No stone has been left unturned in the bidding process. The South African and French delegations will argue the same but they've had their day, the least we deserve is a crack of the whip.

In rugby terminology this is a kick in the solar plexus.

It is all but telling the Rugby Council which way they should vote. So much for rugby democracy. It is akin to a scrap just before the break in a match against England for the Grand Slam and Championship.

Conor Murray - yesterday named Ireland Player of the Year at the Guinness Writers' awards - ships an injury and Johnny Sexton sees yellow with wind, hill and sun to face in the second half. A zany analogy perhaps but that's how it feels.

I remember about 10 years ago when the 2011 and 2015 World Cups were being divvied out and Japan had their hat in the ring for both.

Any semblance of fair play allied to the game broadening its horizon seemed to indicate that Asia's time had come. Not a bit of it before New Zealand and England had to have their blast.

As Dick Spring and Philip Browne have attempted to articulate despite yesterday's finding, all is not yet lost.

We're 10 minutes into the second half and behind on the scoreboard but Murray and Sexton are making their way back on.

It ain't over till it's over but there's some fortnight ahead.

Belfast Telegraph

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