The Balance of Power: Redrawing Rugby’s Global Map

The Seven Nations, the Pacific Trophy and the Cup of the America’s. All potential monikers for the three tournaments that will dominate the adjusted landscape of international rugby in 2020. Well, just maybe. According to former Argentine scrum-half Agustín Pichot, the future may well see the growth of existing competitions alongside the creation of new ones, as the global map of the sport is redrawn and the balance of power shifts inexorably north.

Pichot revealed his vision of what may come to US Eagles head coach Eddie O’Sullivan, as they enjoyed the spectacle of the US Sevens event in Las Vegas last weekend. As O’Sullivan told the RuggaMatrix America podcast, the legendary Puma had some interesting views:

“He has a vision of the game that might be a little bit off the beam at this moment in time but there’s a logic to it,” explains O’Sullivan. “The world could break up into three blocks of rugby, which could really happen if South Africa throw their pitch in with Europe. It sounds crazy but when you think about it, it’s easier to get from Cape Town to London than Cape Town to Perth, and that could put stress on the whole Super 15 structure over time.

“Can it be sustainable financially depending on the global market for sport and the costs for running it? The tipping point could be if South Africa get into Europe, get their franchises into the Heineken Cup and the Springboks into the Six Nations in some shape or form.”

Having already threatened to walk away from their Antipodean rivals in recent years over arguments regarding the rugby calendar, and with the new Super 15 franchise going to Melbourne proving an unpopular decision in the Republic, is it beyond the realms of possibility that South Africa could pick up their ball and take it elsewhere in the next ten years?

The loss of the current world champions and one of the behemoth’s of international rugby from the playing fields of the Southern Hemisphere would be a bitter pill for their fellow Tri-Nations competitors to swallow, both competitively and financially. Conversely, the increased level of competition felt in the north could be seismic.

“It would be colossal no question about that, it would be a paradigm shift in the game as we understand it,” says O’Sullivan. “It would affect everybody, it would affect obviously Europe, it would affect the Americas, it would affect SANZAR colossally. Effectively, then you would just have an Australasia block with two powers, which are obviously Australia and New Zealand. But they may have to put their hand to the wheel and develop Tonga, Fiji and Samoa more, and/or bring Japan and China in.”

Rugby Map of the Future


The fact that such a move would also isolate North America and Argentina somewhat – if the Pumas themselves don’t join the Tri-Nations format – is naturally of greater concern to O’Sullivan. He’s on a long-term mission to help develop the USA into one of rugby’s power nations, so where they find their competition and who that may be, is of paramount importance.

“We would have to look at developing Canada, USA, Argentina and Uruguay,” he reasons. “Pichot’s aware that if that were to happen – and this guy’s got an interesting vision – that the Americas would want to be strong, and it’s in Argentina’s interest that Canada and the USA develop so that when that moment arrives, we’re all able to take advantage of it and be part of it. So, suddenly the power blocks of the game could be different from how we know them. I don’t know if it will happen and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but it’s a very interesting concept and a very interesting possibility if it did.”

 All quotes taken from RuggaMatrix America Episode 010 – You Had To Be There

First published by Heavens Game on February 24th, 2010

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