Southern Hemisphere, king of world rugby, really?

Southern Hemisphere, king of world rugby, really?

  • While rugby in the southern hemisphere was said to be in a moribund state before the start of the World Cup, it has placed three teams in the semi-finals, and two in the final: New Zealand and South Africa, who will compete on Saturday at the Stade de France.
  • At the end of this tenth World Cup, England will remain for at least another four years the only northern nation to have won the title, in 2003.
  • However, it is clear that the Northern Hemisphere remains the driving force in world rugby.

Before the start of the long match already This World Cup is in FranceWe have been promised hell for rugby in the southern hemisphere, where its results have fallen to half-mast since the last World Cup in 2019 in Japan, and its financial struggles. This is a phenomenon exacerbated by Covid, which has particularly isolated and weakened New Zealand. However, seven weeks later, we find ourselves again, this Saturday, with an All Blacks-Springboks final after the semi-finals. Argentina was also invited.

England, the only country north of the equator to lift the Webb-Ellis Cup (in 2003), were outsiders in this quarter-final. For the third time in 10 editions, after 1995 (South Africa – New Zealand, already) and 2015 (New Zealand – Australia), the last match in the competition brings together two countries from the southern lands. Whichever country triumphs at the Stade de France, it will sit alone at the top of the table with four titles.

Clearly we’ve been making fun of Sir Clive Woodward’s talents as a mediator since last weekend, and not just because he’s English. On October 8, before the quarterfinals, the coach of the 2003 world champions got wet. In his column L daily Mail “The European teams dominated the group stage and I expect a strong showing for the Six Nations in this quarter.”

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Well, in hindsight, we were closer to Paco Rabanne’s predictions than Paul the Octopus’ predictions. But the fact remains that Jonny Wilkinson’s former mentor relied on irrefutable statistics since France (beating New Zealand in the process), Ireland (with their success over South Africa), Wales and England (winners over Argentina) all dominated their group. Never before in 36 years of competition. This 4/4 seemed very logical, given the balance of power in world rugby in recent years.

Today, fans from these different countries don’t care about these statistics, for distinctly different reasons. “We have three major southern countries that are still very difficult to overcome relative to the four or five major European countries,” says sports economist Jean-Pascal Giant. “It is paradoxical, but that is the observation.” But with one caveat: “I am one of those who think the draw and refereeing have created some problems in this World Cup.”

We will not return to this draw, which was made almost three years before the competition, with a very different hierarchy than before the World Cup, when Ireland and France were battling it out at the top of the world rankings. World Rugby has also decided to adjust its calendar. Or even clarify Ben O’Keefe’s decisions In the quarter-finals France – South Africa (28-29) Then the second half between England and South Africa (15-16), two inconclusive meetings Fantastic quarter Ireland – New Zealand (24-28).

Player flows almost exclusively from south to north

However, strange as it may seem, with the FIFA World Cup becoming the beginning and end of rugby, the retaliation of the Southern nations should not mask an underlying phenomenon. “Economically, the strength remains in the north,” Jean-Pascal Giant continues. Major international stars are very present in the Top 14 in particular, and in the English Championship. It remains an essential indicator. A very good French, English or Irish player rarely goes to play in New Zealand, Australia or South Africa, while on the contrary, flow is very important. »

The All Blacks, who will lose semi-retired players like Sam Whitlock (leaving for Pau) or Nepo Laulala (Toulouse), but also Leicester’s young winger Fainga’anuku (Toulon), are fighting with very unequal weapons, when it comes to retaining their best players. After the failed Jaguars experiment, the Argentines finished in the top 14. And let’s not talk about the unlucky Australians, who were woefully left out of the group this year, whileIt should host the 2027 World Cup.

South African provinces joined the European Cups in the 2022-2023 season. Things did not go well for Makazole Mapembe’s team in Toulouse, in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, on April 8 (54-20 defeat) – Valentin Chapuis

It still is Defending champion South Africa, who took advantage of his convenient time zone to hitch his wagon to the northern locomotive. Its counties first incorporated the URC (Old Celtic League) and then the European Cups. The thirty-something executives (de Klerk, de Allende, Creel, du Toit, etc.) found the right source via a Japanese exile that was as financially interesting as it was physically interesting, with a less demanding agenda. Much of his schedule was crowded. French internationals.

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“The South Africa game fits perfectly into the World Cup format,” he added in early September. in Parisian Brian Habana, former Bucs winger who won the title in 2007. Physical dominance, highly effective kicks, and diverse attacking options. » However, structurally, “there is a greater fragility between the countries of the South and the North that remains the center of world rugby,” emphasizes Jean-Pascal Gayant.

“World Rugby has announced the Nations Cup with the participation of 12 countries, which is almost a closed league,” continues the Director of International Rugby in Saint-Malo. From the point of view of this organization, it is necessary to create more numerous and frequent competitions, which have an impact on the level of television and commercial rights to enable them to distribute more to the federations, especially those in the southern hemisphere that have when and even economic difficulties. »

All is not rosy in the north either, with the French Football Federation losing money and England losing its clubs (WaspsLondon Irish, Worcester Warriors and Jersey Reds), whose model has been affected by the Covid crisis. But pending the potential awakening of the United States (host of the 2031 World Cup) to rugby, Europe remains the nerve center of the sport, and is far from global. It’s a shame he wasn’t seen during the World Cup.

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