OPINION – We have a glitch in the matrix…
The Welsh weren’t supposed to win against the English. They were supposed to get close before being blown away in the final quarter by a home side full of running and full of pace, not to mention a home side hell bent on earning World Cup glory at home.
Oh how differently it ended up when Jerome Garces blew the full time whistle at Twickenham around 10pm on Saturday evening.
No sweet chariot, no-one carrying anyone home and next to no hope of qualifying for the quarter finals. It was and still is a grim situation for the tournament hosts, particularly with a virtually do-or-die fixture against the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday.
It’s not only Stuart Lancaster and the rest of the team’s management who would be extremely worried about his side’s predicament at the Rugby World Cup but tournament organisers as well. Back in March, World Rugby Chief Brett Gosper touched on the hypothetically precarious topic to the ire of anyone who wasn’t English after the English cricket team failed to get out of their pool at the Cricket World Cup in March.
Despite what you think about the tweet or whether CEOs of ruling bodies should be favouring particular teams, the reality is Gosper’s sentiment about England’s financial value to the tournament is bang on and hints at what would happen should the host nation fall at the first hurdle at the 2015 Rugby World Cup .
It’s fair to say that the World Cup hasn’t exactly lit up London as expected well before the start of the tournament. Drowned out by the 10 Premier League fixtures per week as well as countless Cup and lower division matches, the World Cup has failed to make a significant imprint in its host country – in and around the streets of London anyway.
Should England become the first ever host nation to not make it out of its pool, it would consign the rest of the tournament to absolute insignificance with the stream of advertising and television broadcasting already going against the tide of bread and butter football fans. And that was before Saturday night when England were second favourites behind New Zealand to win the tournament.
In a game that is so focused on money with almost every decision by World Rugby based on its financial viability, the fact is that World Rugby and tournament sponsors need England to go further for the sake of ticket sales and general public interest. Interest translates to money being spent in pubs, restaurants, on team apparel and so on and so fourth.
Rugby Union is already struggling for participation and to attract new fans in England. And unfortunately the England rugby team is now on the precipice where a win on Saturday night followed by qualifying for the tournament’s latter stages would significantly raise the stocks of England’s rugby popularity and participation; while a loss would see rugby in England go over the edge and severely damage the game’s potential for growth.
An early England finish would also significantly damage the country’s credentials to be awarded the tournament again as the financial viability of holding the Rugby World Cup in what is virtually a rugby apathetic country would not be appealing to World Rugby.
All is not yet lost for the England side and their Rugby World Cup campaign but one feels that they’re playing for a little more on Saturday night than just an mere opportunity to qualify for the quarter final stages.