Two years to Japan’s jersey World Cup and rugby union

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Exactly two years from Wednesday, the Rugby World Cup will kick off in Japan, and World Rugby is starting to twitch, judging by its public warnings to local Authentic Al MacInnis Youth Jersey organisers about the sluggish pace of preparations. Get your pagoda in order now has been the theme before this week’s two-years-to-go extravaganza at Shibuya 19 in central Tokyo.Normally this would be a high-profile story but, right now, there seem to be more serious concerns, not least that Japan is at the heart of global geopolitical tension with North Korea given a second missile test fired over the 2019 host country in the past week. Rugby, meanwhile, has its own worrisome long-term problems to fret about. Those South Africans still shaking their heads at last Saturday’s 57-0 thrashing by the All Blacks are not alone: the scoreline sent a shiver down every traditional rugby spine, from Bloemfontein to Buenos Aires. The Springboks were supposed to be improving, the men in black still rebuilding. What if this yawning gap widens further between now and 2019? Only the most sand‑obsessed ostrich could ignore the possible ramifications.
Because, without any question, a permanently sub-par Springboks side dangerously weakens the whole of Test rugby. The international game is not commercially bulletproof worldwide and relies on its trusty mix of delicious anticipation and competitive tension to keep interest alive. Increasingly the Boks are struggling on both counts: they have lost 14 of their last 16 Tests against the All Blacks, their once-impregnable aura has evaporated, many of their best players have relocated to clubs overseas to earn more money and even their most ardent fans are wondering aloud if their days as a rugby superpower are gone for good. One of that country’s most seasoned observers expressed it perfectly: Saturday was South Africa’s darkest night, and there may not be a dawn.Worse still is the fear that many of the hyenas circling the stricken Boks are weakening themselves. Australia, despite a slight recent upturn, are struggling even to woo their own supporters, never mind the rest of the world – a crowd of 14,229 turned up to watch their first Test in Canberra in seven years last weekend. Argentina, for their part, have lost 13 of the last 15 Tests, beating only Japan and Georgia, with their policy of picking only homegrown players threatening to unravel completely.
Then there is the United States Authentic Keith Yandle Womens Jersey where, as underlined in Pennsylvania at the weekend, 15-a-side rugby only really appears to catch the Panthers Jersey mass Panthers Womens Jersey imagination Flames Jersey when the Flames Authentic Jersey All Blacks pitch up in Chicago. Sevens may yet prove a different story but its confirmation last week as a guaranteed Olympic sport until 2024 at least could destabilise the traditional game even more, as is happening with Twenty20 and Test cricket.And so it goes on: France have won the Six Nations just once in the past decade, Samoa have been slipping backwards, the spectre of concussion and player welfare in general still stalks the sport, the professional players of the Premiership are muttering about strike action, the Pro14 is expanding because the alternative is too horrible to think about and none of the big English clubs are making a significant profit either.
On these pages all these issues have been variously flagged up before; the difference is that many are now flocking home to roost simultaneously. The Lions tour was a wonderful anachronism, temporarily blinding all of us to major issues elsewhere. At this rate, even in the two-year window before the 2019 World Cup kicks off, we could be in for a 20-team tournament at which only two squads, at best, have much hope a) of lifting the trophy and b) not being reduced to a pulp at some stage.Of course it is still only mid-term but a predictable two-horse race would be bad for the game as a whole. While England are by no means yet the finished article, their 19 wins in 20 Tests under Eddie Jones do make them legitimate contenders. But if they cannot stop the All Blacks then who will? Ireland, who have never been beyond the quarter-finals at any World Cup, an improving but still inconsistent Scotland, or a Wales team awaiting an infusion of new blood? At this precise moment a black-and-white-dominated World Cup feels more likely.


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