Top-ranked teams endorse fairer World Cup schedule
Updated: October 10, 2011, 03:09
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Rugby's major nations have endorsed a 20-team format for the sport's 2015 World Cup and have offered to play midweek matches to ensure the lower-ranked teams have more time between matches.
Representatives of Tier One nations met Monday to discuss the format and commercial model for the next World Cup, which will be held in England, broaching issues which recently saw a New Zealand-led threat to boycott the tournament.
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew has said the All Blacks could consider skipping the 2015 event unless the International Rugby Board addresses concerns around the tournament's effects on test match revenues and sponsorships for member unions. Australia has supported New Zealand's stand.
Lower-ranked nations competing at the World Cup have also attacked a schedule which has given some of them as little as four days between games, while the top tier countries enjoyed longer rest breaks.
The International Rugby Board said in a statement Monday that during "a constructive forum'' Tier One unions had "unanimously recommended retaining the current format of 20 teams split across four pools.''
"Delegates also reaffirmed their support of the IRB's planned review of the Rugby World Cup match schedule to deliver the best possible balance of rest days for all teams.''
The IRB said Tier One unions had agreed to play midweek matches during the 2015 World Cup to ensure smaller nations receive a fairer spread of game.
"While the meeting was not a decision-making forum, key recommendations will be put forward to the IRB executive committee or the IRB Council for consideration,'' the IRB statement said.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said a review of the format and match schedule of the World Cup is undertaken after every tournament.
"This scheduled meeting, its recommendations coupled with the ongoing commercial model review will ensure that Rugby World Cup continues to serve the needs of the global game at every level while reinforcing its place as one of the world's premier sports events,'' Lapasset said.
Samoa center Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono was the most strident critic of the match schedule at current World Cup, using a Twitter post to liken Samoa's itinerary, involving short turnarounds between important matches, to slavery and apartheid. He is facing a misconduct hearing.
The coaches of other minor nations said short turnarounds between games worked against smaller nations producing their best form.