Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: European cup, RWC 2011, South Africa, Super 15 rugby, World Cup
Super rugby, the competition for the top 15 Southern Hemisphere regional teams, has announced a new format for next season. There is one new team for this year, the Melbourne Rebels, and there will be a three conference format.
This means that in the regular season each team will play 12 of their 16 games in their home country, with home and away fixtures, before moving to a play off system. This will boost crowds and reduce the debilitating effects of travelling abroad.
In a World Cup year, there are fears that the international players might be asked to do too much, with Tri Nations games following straight after the competition. This will require careful management of playing time, but it is unlikely that the All Blacks will risk resting players in the way they did in 2007.
I think this new format gives Sanzar national selectors the best opportunity to look at a broad range players. Certainly the standard of rugby is improving. Will the Heineken Cup be able to match this?
After watching the Tri Nations tournament, I think the answer is no. Even though the South Africans have had a poor tournament by their high standards, they were kings of the Super 14 last season. A few selection tweaks and they might be too far ahead of their European counterparts.
The English teams need to go into a similar tournament as the Super 15, with the top sides from the Six Nations battling it out. The Welsh regions could go down to three teams, the Irish three teams, and the French could have four. Italy and Scotland two. If the English had four teams, then that would make 18 teams. A conference system could mean 14 week season, with a play off. Then into the Six Nations, with the normal clubs going into their own competition.
Radical I know and would not happen because of all the politics concerned. It is interesting to speculate who would make up the regional teams. Here is my selection:
England: Bath (west country), Leicester (midlands), Wasps (south london), Saracens (north london)
Wales: Ospreys (west wales), Cardiff (central wales), Newport (east wales)
Ireland: Munster, Ulster, Leinster
Scotland: Glasgow, Edinburgh
Italy: Aironi, Treviso
France: Paris, Toulouse, Bairritz, Clermont
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Team Management | Tags: Martin Johnson, Pieter de Villiers, Robbie Deans, RWC 2011, the Lions, Warren Gatland
The next couple of months will shape the coaching staffs for the major World Cup teams. The governing bodies know that two years about the minimum time a coach can make a real impact. Of course some have had immediate success: Warren Gatland for Wales and perhaps Robbie Deans for Australia. The jury is still out on Pieter De Villiers of South Africa, and Martin Johnson not really the coach for England.
The Six Nations will tell us something about the ambitions of the teams. The Lions tour will define some of the possible stars of the World Cup.
But for me, 2009 will show us how the shape of the game has changed at the top table. The ELVs and breakdown protocols have now filtered through. Referees are becoming more consistent in their interpretation. Players have adpated on field and coaches off field. I don’t see much new after the middle of 2009 and into the Tri Nations.
The competition will revert to the most skilful, best prepared side winning; a mix of the talent available and the coaching expertise to manage those resources. I cannot see the World Cup winning coach not in place at the end of this year. The big four, that is the only four winners of the World Cup, are still in the box seats today, but the hopefuls, that is Argentina, France and even perhaps Wales and Ireland, need to get 2009 right if they want to be in the final mix.
The coaching challenges remain the same, at all levels. This year will define the personnel.