by Len Kaplan
The IRB need to show that they are more than merely docile administrators of world rugby. The elected leaders of the IRB, and the men they have employed as executives, need to show leadership in a wide range of areas affecting the game of rugby.
There is much one can discuss on this topic, but on the basis of what we’ve witnessed during the northern hemisphere November internationals, there is one specific issue demanding immediate attention and decisive action.
The playing surface offered by the Welsh Rugby Union at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was a disgrace. At present it is not fit for even schoolboy or club rugby, and is most assuredly inadequate for Test matches watched by tens of thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers around the world. It’s just not good enough.
If anything, the Murrayfield turf on which Scotland expected top internationals to play Test rugby this month has been even worse. Schools and clubs would find it unsuitable; how much less adequate it has been for top professional players whose livelihoods depend on their performances on this awful surface. What a shame. It’s just not good enough.
Having suffered through having to play on the shocking Millennium Stadium and Murrayfield pitches, the Springboks would have hoped for an up-to-standard ground on which to play their third and final November Test, but it was not to be. At Stade de France the French Rugby Union provided a paddock on which a rugby match should not be played.
How embarrassing for the IRB and the French Rugby Union for scrums in a Test match to have to be moved so that forwards would be able to scrummage without the turf giving way. This can change the course of a match, with arbitrary shifting of open and blindside areas decided on because of deficient preparation of fields. It’s just not good enough.
If it is not feasible for the IRB to move matches to alternative venues in each of those cities, or to another city in that country, perhaps they should move the match to a stadium in a neighbouring country which has a playing turf on which top players have the opportunity to display their skills, and can accommodate sufficient spectators.
See how quickly the host Rugby Union would then sort out their playing surface problems.
At the very least those Rugby Unions should be heavily fined for so badly letting down Test players and referees and spectators who pay high prices to watch games live and the masses of worldwide viewers.
The IRB needs to hit them in the pocket now, and warn them about the possibility of those venues losing Test status in future.