The 2023 Rugby World Cup parallels “small teams”, which have a series of more or less crushing defeats

Romanians crushed by South Africa (76-0), Namibians swept away by France (96-0) or even Chileans who barely held up better against England (71-0)

The 2023 Rugby World Cup parallels “small teams”, which have a series of more or less crushing defeats

Romanians crushed by South Africa (76-0), Namibians swept away by France (96-0) or even Chileans who barely held up better against England (71-0). Since the start of the Rugby World Cup, meetings between title contenders and countries less accustomed to international games have experienced virtually the same fate: a one-sided match. Only Uruguay seemed to upset this repetitive and pre-written scenario. Despite good resistance, Los Teros finally lost against France (27-12) and Italy (38-17).

They try their luck again, Wednesday September 27 (5:45 p.m. on M6), against Namibia, at Groupama Stadium in Lyon and whatever happens, at least one of the two teams will score their first points of the competition. This will not change much in their fate anyway, they who have never applied for qualification for the quarter-finals of a World Cup. “Tier 2 [the weakest nations in the World Cup] need competition, so that rugby is not a sport played by ten nations, so that it is more global and the matches are more attractive to watch », pleaded the Uruguayan German Kessler, after the defeat against the Italians.

The hooker points to a problem highlighted every four years. With the exception of the high mass of the Ovalie, the small nations are asked to play their matches among themselves. During this time, rugby's big names regularly challenge each other, whether during the Six Nations Tournament, the Rugby Championship (bringing together New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina) or even the fall and summer tours. “We need to face the best teams, the ones we will find at the World Cup,” summarized Esteban Meneses, the Teros coach.

If the Romanian captain Cristian Chirica preferred to put on a brave face after the rout of his troops against the reigning South African world champions, he ultimately said nothing else: “We are happy to be here and we try to do our best. We need to gain experience. »

“One day there will be a death.”

“The problem is not being able to master something you don’t know,” said Chilean coach Pablo Lemoine after his players’ defeat against England. The Chileans have never played in a match like this. In four years, it will be the same thing and we will get 60 points against these teams. »

On several occasions, Namibians have spoken of the difficulties encountered in preparing for high-level rugby. “Some [players] had to change jobs because they couldn't get a month's leave from their employer,” explained their coach, Allister Coetzee, before the start of the competition. The overwhelming majority of Namibians, Portuguese, Romanians and even Chileans are not professionals, and must reconcile their rugby activity with their career.

When it comes time for the World Cup, the step is suddenly too high. “Small nations never play big teams, and here they find themselves encountering several in a few days. This is not possible, exclaims former Romanian hooker Marius Tincu, with 53 caps and two World Cups under his belt (2007 and 2011). Not to mention the dangers: all these nations have many injuries during the competition because the players are not used to such intensity. One day, there will be a death if we continue to send these teams without any real preparation..."

The example of Italy

All the teams at the bottom of the rankings demand to be able to benchmark themselves regularly against the best teams. For the moment, Romania and Portugal are content to compete in the European international championship – a sort of Six Nations B Tournament – ​​where they challenge Georgia and Spain in particular, and tour matches against Brazil or Canada. “There are so many better things to do,” laments Marius Tincu. We can easily imagine the secondary team of the XV of France coming to face Romania while the holders will play a match in the Six Nations Tournament. »

Everyone advocates the example of Italy, having made enormous progress precisely since its entry into the Six Nations in 2000. Certainly, the Azzurri's debut in the competition was not easy, as evidenced by an 80 to 23 defeat against England, in 2001. For many seasons, Georgia could see itself joining the prestigious continental competition, but it has not yet won its case.

While awaiting a hypothetical change, World Rugby – the international federation – is currently studying the possibility of expanding the World Cup to 24 teams (compared to 20 today) during the next edition of the competition, in 2027 in Australia. Objective: to standardize the overall level and offer more affordable meetings to less experienced teams. At the risk of further extending the calendar, and France, New Zealand or South Africa multiplying one-sided victories in the group stage.