Rugby Union; Picking at the bones

Eric

Moderator

Failed World Cup bid would put rugby in peril​

The future of rugby in Australia is in peril should the World Cup bid fail as doubts grow over whether the federal government will provide funding for the tournament.
If Australia, who are currently World Rugby’s “preferred candidate” for 2027, lose the event, there is no easy path for the cash-strapped code to crawl out of its financial hole.

Both Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan and bid director Phil Kearns have repeatedly reinforced that clinching the event, on the back of the British Irish Lions tour here in 2025, would fill the coffers and lift the ailing code. Last November, after being announced by World Rugby as the favoured host for 2027, Kearns said that hosting that tournament would be the “light on the hill” and “potentially secures the future for rugby for a long, long time in this country”.

That all changed this week. On Thursday, Kearns warned that the old enemy England could emerge as a rival host, and potentially leave Australian rugby stuck in its financial quagmire. “It would be a massive blow to our future if we missed out on this tournament because we think that the Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the British Lions in 2025 get us on a great pathway to financial security for the game,” Kearns told The Weekend Australian. “If we don’t come up with the right deal then it could go to England – where there is great certainty around the financial returns – given the amount of times they have hosted the tournament.”

The World Cup is World Rugby’s cash cow and that’s why Australia’s hope of hosting the tournament is suddenly more tenuous. What Rugby Australia must do is guarantee World Rugby approximately a $300m return from the tournament, and while reportedly the states are keen to chip in half, RA is looking to the federal government to guarantee the rest and lift the bid over the final hurdle. Two weeks ago, cracks in Australia’s bid appeared when rugby insiders learned that the federal government may not be as willing to come to the World Cup party as first anticipated.

It’s a stark contrast to how government officials were feeling toward rugby three years ago. In 2019, federal and state government officials travelled to the World Cup in Japan and were blown away by the event, which ended up being the most financially successful tournament ever. Japan’s event generated over $7.5bn in economic output and attracted more than 240,000 international visitors. “They went to Japan and (the government officials) all went ‘this is amazing, we all want to be part of this’,” one source told The Weekend Australian.

The excitement has now apparently waned with bushfires, Covid and floods adding to the financial strain in Canberra. Three years later, the fear is that with the Olympic Games secured for 2032, with the federal government expected to carry half of the $5bn budget, plus major events such as the women’s soccer World Cup in 2023, the money may not be there to support rugby’s showcase tournament. McLennan admitted there was a risk of losing the tournament to a northern hemisphere nation, but said RA was working hard to clinch the funding.

But McLennan told The Weekend Australian that there was sufficient political support in Australia for the bid, and it was just a matter of working out a funding model that includes federal and state government support in time for the bid announcement that will likely be made in the first week of May. “The state and federal governments have been very supportive so far,” McLennan said.

“They are all aware of the enormous opportunity to reboot tourism and share in the success that hosting the third-biggest sporting event in the world would be.”
A federal government source this week told The Weekend Australian they were ”continuing to work with RA”. McLennan also pointed out that hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2029 would bring substantial benefits, and boost the women’s game in Australia. It is also likely RA would ring-fence any private equity involvement from the World Cup income.

The last man to oversee a successful World Cup in Australia is John O’Neill. The then ARU chief executive ran a successful World Cup which sold two million tickets and made a profit of $100m (but it was capped at $42m, with the remainder of the surplus handed back to World Rugby). O’Neill says he wants nothing more than Australia to host in 2027 but he is “alarmed” to hear that the requirement for the financial guarantee to World Rugby may be in jeopardy.

As O’Neill points out following Australia’s financial windfall in 2003, rugby’s northern hemisphere powerbrokers, thinking the ARU had been “unduly enriched,” created a requirement for future hosts to underwrite a “massive” guarantee, effectively a rights fee, which has increased over the years and is expected to be around $300m by 2027. “It’s just gone up, and up, from where it started off, and largely it’s been underwritten by the relevant national governments of the host union, as no rugby body in the world has that underwriting capability, only governments do,” O’Neill said. “The tender document for RWC 2027 would have spelt out this requirement that to have a compliant bid, if you want to win the right to host 2027, you must provide a minimum guarantee or bank guarantee.

“Rugby World Cup may say to RA, if you cannot do that, then your bid is non-compliant. "It’s a bit alarming. I should say no one is more supportive of Australia hosting 2027 than me. It will be a game-changer for rugby in Australia. “We have a preferred bidder status but this considerable roadblock must be overcome now.”
Matt Carroll, who is now chief executive of the Australian Olympic Committee, the man who led the delivery of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, like O’Neill, is fiercely supportive of this country hosting the World Cup in 2027. While some within government have noted that pitching in for a World Cup won’t be a vote winner for the Coalition with the general public – Carroll sees the event as crucial to Australia on many levels.

“We support the bid because it’s not only just about sport, it’s about getting the economy moving again,” Carroll said. “It’s a huge opportunity for tourism, infrastructure and it’s about providing jobs. So an investment by the government in the sports industry is as good as investing in other industries. “And with the sports industry, you also get the knock-on effect of which performance sport provides to growing participation, which means, you get to help with the other crisis people have forgotten about – the obesity crisis.

“Rugby is an integral part of the Australian sporting landscape, you know, people say ‘oh, well (hosting the World Cup) that’s just for the rugby world’. “I say ‘no, it’s actually for the country’ and it brings all those other benefits that adds value. “It’s not just the government giving money to a sporting organisation. This is actually an investment in an event which is going to deliver for the country.”


Time to shut down this competition. They were in competition with rugby league and lost. Which of them can make it in the NRL and come to St George? We could use a few good, young forwards.
 

GCRV

SGI NSW Cup
I read just yesterday Bennett was looking to poach a member of the Wallabies, apparently one of their best, for next year.
 

Chris M

SGI NSW Cup

Failed World Cup bid would put rugby in peril​

The future of rugby in Australia is in peril should the World Cup bid fail as doubts grow over whether the federal government will provide funding for the tournament.
If Australia, who are currently World Rugby’s “preferred candidate” for 2027, lose the event, there is no easy path for the cash-strapped code to crawl out of its financial hole.

Both Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan and bid director Phil Kearns have repeatedly reinforced that clinching the event, on the back of the British Irish Lions tour here in 2025, would fill the coffers and lift the ailing code. Last November, after being announced by World Rugby as the favoured host for 2027, Kearns said that hosting that tournament would be the “light on the hill” and “potentially secures the future for rugby for a long, long time in this country”.

That all changed this week. On Thursday, Kearns warned that the old enemy England could emerge as a rival host, and potentially leave Australian rugby stuck in its financial quagmire. “It would be a massive blow to our future if we missed out on this tournament because we think that the Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the British Lions in 2025 get us on a great pathway to financial security for the game,” Kearns told The Weekend Australian. “If we don’t come up with the right deal then it could go to England – where there is great certainty around the financial returns – given the amount of times they have hosted the tournament.”

The World Cup is World Rugby’s cash cow and that’s why Australia’s hope of hosting the tournament is suddenly more tenuous. What Rugby Australia must do is guarantee World Rugby approximately a $300m return from the tournament, and while reportedly the states are keen to chip in half, RA is looking to the federal government to guarantee the rest and lift the bid over the final hurdle. Two weeks ago, cracks in Australia’s bid appeared when rugby insiders learned that the federal government may not be as willing to come to the World Cup party as first anticipated.

It’s a stark contrast to how government officials were feeling toward rugby three years ago. In 2019, federal and state government officials travelled to the World Cup in Japan and were blown away by the event, which ended up being the most financially successful tournament ever. Japan’s event generated over $7.5bn in economic output and attracted more than 240,000 international visitors. “They went to Japan and (the government officials) all went ‘this is amazing, we all want to be part of this’,” one source told The Weekend Australian.

The excitement has now apparently waned with bushfires, Covid and floods adding to the financial strain in Canberra. Three years later, the fear is that with the Olympic Games secured for 2032, with the federal government expected to carry half of the $5bn budget, plus major events such as the women’s soccer World Cup in 2023, the money may not be there to support rugby’s showcase tournament. McLennan admitted there was a risk of losing the tournament to a northern hemisphere nation, but said RA was working hard to clinch the funding.

But McLennan told The Weekend Australian that there was sufficient political support in Australia for the bid, and it was just a matter of working out a funding model that includes federal and state government support in time for the bid announcement that will likely be made in the first week of May. “The state and federal governments have been very supportive so far,” McLennan said.

“They are all aware of the enormous opportunity to reboot tourism and share in the success that hosting the third-biggest sporting event in the world would be.”
A federal government source this week told The Weekend Australian they were ”continuing to work with RA”. McLennan also pointed out that hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2029 would bring substantial benefits, and boost the women’s game in Australia. It is also likely RA would ring-fence any private equity involvement from the World Cup income.

The last man to oversee a successful World Cup in Australia is John O’Neill. The then ARU chief executive ran a successful World Cup which sold two million tickets and made a profit of $100m (but it was capped at $42m, with the remainder of the surplus handed back to World Rugby). O’Neill says he wants nothing more than Australia to host in 2027 but he is “alarmed” to hear that the requirement for the financial guarantee to World Rugby may be in jeopardy.

As O’Neill points out following Australia’s financial windfall in 2003, rugby’s northern hemisphere powerbrokers, thinking the ARU had been “unduly enriched,” created a requirement for future hosts to underwrite a “massive” guarantee, effectively a rights fee, which has increased over the years and is expected to be around $300m by 2027. “It’s just gone up, and up, from where it started off, and largely it’s been underwritten by the relevant national governments of the host union, as no rugby body in the world has that underwriting capability, only governments do,” O’Neill said. “The tender document for RWC 2027 would have spelt out this requirement that to have a compliant bid, if you want to win the right to host 2027, you must provide a minimum guarantee or bank guarantee.

“Rugby World Cup may say to RA, if you cannot do that, then your bid is non-compliant. "It’s a bit alarming. I should say no one is more supportive of Australia hosting 2027 than me. It will be a game-changer for rugby in Australia. “We have a preferred bidder status but this considerable roadblock must be overcome now.”
Matt Carroll, who is now chief executive of the Australian Olympic Committee, the man who led the delivery of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, like O’Neill, is fiercely supportive of this country hosting the World Cup in 2027. While some within government have noted that pitching in for a World Cup won’t be a vote winner for the Coalition with the general public – Carroll sees the event as crucial to Australia on many levels.

“We support the bid because it’s not only just about sport, it’s about getting the economy moving again,” Carroll said. “It’s a huge opportunity for tourism, infrastructure and it’s about providing jobs. So an investment by the government in the sports industry is as good as investing in other industries. “And with the sports industry, you also get the knock-on effect of which performance sport provides to growing participation, which means, you get to help with the other crisis people have forgotten about – the obesity crisis.

“Rugby is an integral part of the Australian sporting landscape, you know, people say ‘oh, well (hosting the World Cup) that’s just for the rugby world’. “I say ‘no, it’s actually for the country’ and it brings all those other benefits that adds value. “It’s not just the government giving money to a sporting organisation. This is actually an investment in an event which is going to deliver for the country.”


Time to shut down this competition. They were in competition with rugby league and lost. Which of them can make it in the NRL and come to St George? We could use a few good, young forwards.
Need to revisit this because we desperately need some middle forwards.
 

Eric

Moderator

How NRL is killing rugby nursery

It was only a few years ago that rising Parramatta Eels star Will Penisini was dreaming of becoming a Wallaby. The Penisinis were a rugby union family. They followed the Wallabies to two World Cups in 2011 and 2015, were Waratahs members for six years and their 19-year-old boy was an outstanding footballer for The King’s School.

“But the pathway in rugby union compared to the NRL wasn’t the same,’’ Penisini said. “I was at school and there was a better pathway to league and it was more appealing because the NRL is bigger in Australia right now, in terms of crowds, TV coverage, sponsorship. “In 2015, me and my family were Waratahs members and we’d go to the games and the crowds were massive.

“But as the years went on, it became less appealing and more recently I went to a game and the crowds weren’t as good and the game wasn’t showcased as it was a couple of years ago.’’ A graduate of the prestigious King’s School in Sydney, Penisini, was signed by the Eels on a development contract at 14. He is just one of an increasing list of elite schoolboy footballers breaking with 103 years of GPS tradition by choosing a pathway to the bright lights of the NRL instead of rugby union.

Once regarded as a breeding ground for future Wallabies, the revered GPS rugby union competition has become the new talent pool for NRL scouts. The decline in profile of Super Rugby and the lure of million-dollar contracts in the NRL, supported by lucrative sponsorship deals and wall-to-wall coverage on TV, has produced an unprecedented production line of NRL players with GPS credentials.

In a fast-developing trend, there are at least 20 players with private school tutelage currently performing in the NRL. All of them would be considered as potential Wallabies, had they stayed playing rugby union. Among them are NSW State of Origin player and South Sydney captain Cameron Murray (Newington), Roosters rising stars Sam Walker (Ipswich Grammar) and Joseph Suaalii (The King’s School), Roosters forward Angus Crichton (Scots), Sharks forward Toby Rudolf (Scots), Storm player Tepai Moeroa (Newington) and Penisini.

Below the established NRL stars is a new wave of talent about to emerge with GPS rugby union backgrounds. Barker College’s (CAS school) Isaiya Katoa created headlines earlier this year when he quit the Panthers to join new franchise the Dolphins on a three-year deal from next season, Penrith SG Ball (under-18) player Jesse McLean is a student at Newington as is former Cronulla Harold Matthews (under-16) skipper Siteni Taukamo, who is contracted with the Sharks until 2024. Penisini’s younger brother Richie is in Year-12 at The King’s School, but is on a similar path to his brother, contracted to the Eels SG Ball side.

“I think we’re about to see a new wave. There’s a lot of talented kids coming through the GPS schools,’’ Penisini said. “A lot of those boys start by playing both codes, which only helps them increase their skill-set, before picking their path. “There’s been more and more focus and talk within rugby league about the GPS kids moving onto league and we can see now the boys coming through the system, even in the Harold Matts and SG Ball.’’

Making it easier for young footballers to switch codes is a shift in the previously over-protective mentality of the GPS blazer brigade. Where once GPS students were only permitted to play rugby union for their school, headmasters and heads of sport are allowing their students to play both codes. GPS schools are also acutely aware of the fact that a student who makes the NRL is an equal-parts promotion for the school of which they developed their skills.

“I started playing rugby league at eight and then I started rugby union when I was 11,’’ Moeroa, who made his NRL debut with the Eels, said. “I was doing both growing up, playing league on Saturday and union Sunday. “When I first started at Newington, they didn’t like the idea of me playing rugby league. My manager was able to come up with an agreement that I would play both in year nine and 10 and a bit in Year-11.’’

Moeroa added that the football development provided by GPS schools is another factor in NRL scouts spending their weekend’s watching private school footy. “The level of training we were able to access at Newington was a pretty good avenue for life and footy after school,’’ Moeroa said. “Some of the GPS schools facilities are almost at the standard as some Super Rugby and professional franchises. It’s crazy the amount of funding that goes into their programs.”

Former Parramatta premiership-winning forward John Muggleton switched from rugby union to league as a junior before returning to the 15-man game as the defence coach of Super Rugby franchise the Melbourne Rebels in 2011. Muggleton said GPS schools were offering scholarships to teenagers playing junior league, transforming them into rugby union players, only to lose them in the end.

“Recruitment is a big thing for the GPS Schools,’’ Muggleton said. “Rugby league is losing a lot of young juniors to schools in the GPS system. “It’s not a bad thing because at the end of their school time a lot of them are going back to league. “It’s a false economy for rugby. The schools target the good league players but then they aren’t in rugby for the long-term. “What is happening is, NRL scouts are watching GPS matches and Australian Schoolboys selection trials and are poaching them back to play NRL. “It’s a funny situation. “At the end of the day. so long as they get a great education, that’s the best thing about it.’’

The bottom line is, in Australia the overwhelming majority of "rugby prodigies" like Tepai Moeroa or Sam Walker are fringe NRL players.
 
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