Welcome back to another edition or Rugby Real or Not, where we discuss some of the biggest talking points in Super Rugby Pacific and around the globe.
As ever, there is plenty happening across the game, with World Cup announcements, foul play and the July internationals all generating news again this week.
SUPER RUGBY WOULD BE WELL SERVED BY AN NRL-STYLE BUNKER SYSTEM
Real. Foul play, and its resulting red cards, continues to be a hot topic in Super Rugby Pacific. Following Caleb Clarke's judiciary hearig on Wednesday night, SANZAAR has dished out 16 weeks' worth of suspensions from Round 7 of Super Rugby Pacific, when no less than five players were sent off. In each of those cases, the players could have few complaints about their respective dismissals or subsequent bans. But where I think an NRL-style bunker could come in handy is the time in which it is taking to make these decisions on field. The current process, where the TMO is often asked to "check that", before the vision is put up on the big screen for the referee to cycle through, watch multiple angles of and then consult with his assistants, before settling on a decision, is driving fans away from the game. It simply takes too long, and sucks all the momentum out of a contest.
Imagine if SANZAAR had a bunker set up, manned by the same officials across the weekend, who could review incidents while play went on, and then stepped in during a break in play with an appropriate recommendation of sanction. That would not only save time by removing the need to put the incident up on the big screen, but also achieve greater consistency across individual games given it would be one official -- or perhaps a group of officials -- reviewing each individual incident with the same interpretation. I know the NRL bunker has had its criticisms and doesn't come cheap at around the $2m-a-season mark, but surely rugby officials could find a cut-price option? It's got to be worth a shot, anyway, particularly if we're going to continue to have multiple in-game breaks so foul play incidents can be reviewed on the big screen. In this era of shortening attention spans, rugby can ill-afford to have multiple extended breaks in play to review foul play, when there are so many other stoppages already.
- Sam Bruce
2025 IS TOO LATE TO MAKE THE WALLAROOS PROFESSIONAL
Not real. This is a really hard perspective to take. Yes, I believe the Wallaroos players should be fully professional right now, but realistically I understand Rugby Australia [RA] simply doesn't have the funds to prop up their payments.
The news this week that Australia have been given preferred bid status by World Rugby to host the 2029 World Cup is huge for women's rugby in the country and will no doubt help introduce more people to the game, but more specifically it proves RA is wanting to do more in the women's space. Already we've seen a huge increase in Test matches this year, Super W has added an extra team in Fijiana Drua and a three-year goal to reach professionalisation means more investment and clearer pathways.
While RA has a lot of work to do to make up for the two missed years through COVID, we should remember that it's taken the likes of netball and cricket in this country years to reach full professionalisation; meanwhile the average AFLW player receives $20k a year despite the riches within the sporting body. These are not excuses for RA, simply some perspective. Players are rightfully demanding more funding and pay, but a three-year plan should see payments build as we head to the 2025 World Cup.
-- Brittany Mitchell
PLAYING THE THIRD TEST BETWEEN THE WALLABIES AND ENGLAND AT THE SCG IS A MISTAKE
Not real. It's certainly a gamble, but I'm prepared to give Rugby Australia the benefit of the doubt - for now. This promises to be a thrilling series and one that may well be decided in Sydney -- that will of course require the Wallabies to end what is at the moment an eight-game winning streak in either of the first two Tests -- and therefore would appear likely to draw more than the 30,000-strong crowd that CommBank Stadium can hold. After missing out on Test rugby last year, it is a decision that is also banking on the belief that fans in rugby heartland, Sydney's eastern suburbs, will happily overlook what are some admittedly terrible vantage points at the famous venue for sports played on a rectangular field.
But if the Wallabies are even able to get, say 10,000, extra fans into the SCG [capacity 48,000], that is an invaluable boost to RA's bottom line. If you do some simple maths on the average ticket price, which is $150, and multiply that by 10,000, that is a potential extra $1.5m that RA cannot simply scoff its nose at. My understanding is that last year's Test against France was on track to be a sell-out at the SCG and with England perhaps having even greater pulling power -- Eddie Jones is the game's greatest marketer -- it is the logical decision to overlook CommBank in favour of the SCG. The old saying that "fans will vote with their feet" will obviously be the determining factor here, while the big shame is that the completion of the new Sydney Football Stadium will happen about a month later. We can however look forward to seeing the Wallabies face the Springboks at the SFS, though, potentially even as the venue's official opening match. Accor Stadium [Homebush] was available to host the third Test, but RA is obviously banking on the heartland appeal of rugby's traditional brass.
- Sam Bruce