Rugby has been an unpredictable beast over the last 12 months... Ironic that I picked the number 12 right? With perhaps the most controversial Lions tour in recent memory, talks of potential liquidation of major clubs around the world, Premiership ringfencing and still no officially licensed Rugby game on the horizon (Rugby 22 definitely doesn't count), it feels like whatever fans are asking for, World Rugby makes a dazzling side step, and runs right around our expectations.
The latest example of this is the announcement of a new international 12-a-side Rugby competition that's being penned for 2022. The World 12's as it's imaginatively called, hopes to have a whopping 192 of the world's best players playing for eight franchises across the UK next August.
I'm personally so conflicted about this announcement, because the more Rugby, the more I'm hooked to my TV screen. However, the continuing dilution of the game with tournaments and tours being packed into every inch of the Rugby calendar left me genuinely exhausted by the time the Lions kicked about... What a waste of a four year cycle. Sure, it could be really exciting seeing more space on the pitch and a new approach to a game that is currently being dominated by what the press are coining as negative Rugby. However, I'm not really into the whole, instead of fixing it, let's replace it mentality that World Rugby are currently enforcing.
We've had a bunch of rule changes being tested across the southern hemisphere, with the new Red card rule an interesting addition that might be a necessary evil as we improve player safety whilst trying to avoid jeopardising the quality of each match. However, it's a telling sign that we enter each season with players and coaches alike, genuinely confused by infringements that didn't exist three months ago. The game's laws have evolved faster in the last 18 months than they have done in the last 10 years. Does introducing another tournament with a completely different format and a potentially different ruleset just further confuse an already confusing game?
The tournament hopes to inject up to £250m into rugby union according to the BBC, that is a huge, huge win for World Rugby's troubling finances. How that money is then distributed is the far more important focus point however, as we all know Rugby at the worst of times still generates cash. Will we see the much beloved Pacific Isles finally earn the pay that they deserve? Will we see more investment in the lower leagues? Probably not.
Whenever there is a big change occurring in the Rugby landscape, you can bet some coaches will have their say, and who would you hazard to guess to have the first word? It's the man, the myth, the legend, Mr Rob Baxter.
"The biggest thing that bothers me when these proposals are thrown around, and I don't mind saying it, is player discontent."
"Straight away from a managerial point of view if this goes ahead what's the outcome going to be? It's basically just going to be players being put in the middle, they're going to be the jam in the sandwich again between clubs and unions because these people are going to offer, I'm assuming, quite a lot of money to try and attract them to play as they have to make it attractive for them to play, and the player's going to turn around and he's going to have to ask to be released from contractual obligations."
"How does it fit in to any player's contract because most of them will be under contract for 12 months of the year."
"I can see how it works at certain times with cricket and I can understand the attraction. But what are you creating? You can come to a game of rugby and spend two or three hours at a game of rugby and have a thoroughly good time and be thoroughly entertained by it, whereas with games of cricket previously to really partake in the game you had to be there for a day."
"Even in Twenty20 you've got to put quite a lot of time into that and if you go to a Test match or 50 overs you have to invest whole days at least. So I see why the short form works for cricket because you change the whole watching environment."
"But that doesn't need to change in rugby, so I don't know what the change in audience is going to be. I can't quite see what the experience or the time input or the time sacrifice you have to make as a spectator, that bit I don't get, and I think that's probably why personally I don't think it's going to be quite as attractive as people think it's going to be."
Read the full BBC article here: