Today’s news sees commentary on Tier Two challenges, Marika Koroibete hanging up the rocket boots, Fiji’s Josua Tuisova playing under the weight of terrible news and an “own goal” in Scottish club rugby.
Smaller rugby nations doing it tougher at World Cup
Former USA player Will Hooley writes about the deck stacked against second-tier teams in this column for the Guardian. Edited extract below:
While most of the attention is focused on who will make it through to the knockout stages in France, some smaller nations still have their eyes set on a golden ticket of their own: automatic qualification for 2027 by virtue of finishing third in their pool. During this World Cup there have certainly been encouraging performances from teams such as Portugal and Uruguay – the gap between the haves and have-nots is closing.
That said, it has been tough for others. England beating Chile 71-0 and Namibia suffering a 96-0 loss to France are examples of the huge disparity that still exists in a few cases. I feel for all the players and staff involved. Often these types of results don’t reflect their journey and hard work, particularly when they are having to navigate a playing field that is less than even in numerous respects.
In particular I feel for Namibia, whose matches were scheduled within a 17-day window. It’s hard to see how they have been fairly treated compared with their Pool A opponents France, who have had a full 28 days to complete their four games.
I can sympathise from personal experience: in 2019, playing for the USA Eagles, we had an exhausting 18 days covering our four group games. It’s incredibly tough to be fresh and ready to put your best foot forward for each match under those circumstances.
Chile’s head coach, Pablo Lemoine, publicly slammed World Rugby, expressing how his players were like lambs to the slaughterhouse. He, like me, wants Chile and other lower-ranked nations to have far more exposure to top opposition before arriving at the World Cup. Neither Chile nor Uruguay were able to secure those kind of fixtures before the tournament, denying them the crucial chance to experience the intensity and speed that a side such as England bring.
Meanwhile Tonga and Samoa, who many of us thought could cause an upset at this World Cup, are still yet to reach their potential. The Tongan superstar Salesi Piutau, formerly an All Black as Charles Piutau, has spoken publicly about a lack of kit, players often having to pay for their own travel during qualifying and not having anywhere near the same time together as, say, New Zealand.
More tier two versus tier one games, fairer scheduling and increased funding are not simple and easy fixes, but it is my belief that World Rugby must continue to make it their overriding priority to try to close the gap by whatever means possible.
Maybe an expanded World Cup with 24 teams, rather than the current 20, is the answer. It would reduce the financial and logistical stress of a lengthy qualification process and allow more time for countries to attract sponsorship, invest in internal rugby competitions and arrange more matches against higher ranked teams.
Marika Koroibete calls time on Test career
Planet Rugby reports that Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete is expected to retire from test rugby after what was likely their final game of the Rugby World Cup. The news comes from front row and good friend of Koroibete, Pone Fa’amausili, who revealed that Koroibete had spoken to him and head coach Eddie Jones about his decision.
“I’m real gutted that I won’t be able to play with him ever again because I played with him at the Rebels and I’m really grateful to share the field with him. He’s obviously one of my best mates and you couldn’t ask for more out of a player. He’s ultimately one of the best, if not the best, winger in the world.”
Josua Tuisova (Fiji) told seven year old son had died hours before Georgia game
Planet Rugby reports that Fiji centre Josua Tuisova played the Rugby World Cup game against Georgia just hours after being told his son had passed away. The Fijian star’s son sadly died after a long-term illness, aged seven years old.
The powerful centre somehow managed to play through the obvious emotion against Georgia in a game that Fiji won 17-12 in Bordeaux. Tuisova was in action for 79 minutes of the come-from-behind win before he was yellow carded for a high tackle, thus ending his afternoon. It has been confirmed by Tuisova’s father, Isikeli Ratulevu, in a report on Fiji Village, that Tuisova is set to remain in France and misses Tuesday’s funeral.
Fiji‘s final pool match of the Rugby World Cup is against Portugal in Toulouse this Sunday. Fiji require one point to seal a spot in the quarters. If successful, Fiji are likely to take on England in the first knockout stage.
Scrum-half smartarsery results in “own goal”
The BBC reports that a Scottish club player was prematurely celebrating winning the match when he accidentally knocked the ball over the crossbar in the dying seconds of the game. It meant Hawick Youth threw away their two-point lead and the under-18s clash with Gala Wanderers ended in a draw.
Match referee Malcolm Changleng told BBC Scotland News he had never seen a similar incident in 30 years of watching rugby. The home team had one final chance to seal a draw with a conversion attempt, but the kick was falling short. As Hawick ran to celebrate the win, their scrum-half kicked the ball “away” but accidentally knocked it over the cross-bar. The video on the linked article is worth a look.
Changleng told BBC radio “I said that there were over 500 laws in the book, but one of the laws says that if the ball touches a player anywhere and it goes over, it’s a conversion. You can’t get an own try because if you take the ball over the line and dot it down, then the opposition get an attacking scrum. But if it goes over your own post and you’ve kicked it over, I suppose that’s technically an own goal. Their wee scrum-half will learn.”