Rugby World Cup: This sport, rugby, “remained under British influence” for a very long time.

What is the trajectory of rugby’s global influence?

Kévin Veyssière, an expert in sports geopolitics, attempts to analyze the phenomenon in his book Planète Rugby, 50 Questions géopolitiques, which was just released by Max Milo editions. Friday was the start of the 10th World Cup, so 20 Minutes asked him five questions about this unique sport.

Why was the first World Cup not held until 1987?

Rugby was the final holdover of British influence, and the organizations that oversaw this sport had long sought to retain it through codes and principles. This was a major barrier to rugby’s internationalization. The transition to professionalism was the main source of worry. With the growth of TV rights, a new sports economy arose in the 1970s and 1980s. Australia and New Zealand were fervently pursuing a World Cup to compete against European nations. Because of its apartheid system, South Africa was at the time prohibited.

Why do the elites continue to live in the same nations?

A World Cup may have potentially led to the emergence of new nations. That wasn’t the situation. Only four nations have claimed the trophy in nine editions, and only one more has competed in the final. In rugby, it is far more difficult for a nation to reach the semifinals, than it was for Morocco in the most recent World Cup of football. While Argentina surprised everyone in 2007 and Japan in 2019, both nations already had a long-standing rugby culture. In general, professionalism has increased the financial power of historical nations. The Champions League in football allows the biggest clubs to further their financial gains. Rugby’s unique profile, which distinguishes between forwards and backs, also makes it more difficult than football for this sport to become established.

Why is the US so bad?

Despite the establishment of a professional league in 2016, it is surprising that they are not present at the World Cup. The terrain is advantageous, though. Rugby has been played since the late nineteenth century and is one of the team sports that operate well at universities. Before the sport was discontinued, the United States even won the Olympic championships in 1920 and 1924. However, rugby has a British identity. Prior to improving after the country hosted the 1994 World Cup, football faced a similar issue. This might hold true beyond 2031. That year, the World Cup is slated to be held in the United States.

Can rugby 7s overtake 15 in terms of popularity?

Rugby 7s is intriguing since it deviates from the established model. The players have various athletic prowess. It has a lot of visibility because it is an Olympic discipline. We observe interference in the elite from nations like Kenya, Colombia, and China. Governments are encouraged to continue investing because emerging areas produce faster results. It’s a good example to follow, but I believe it needs a Rugby World Cup 7s to gain the same level of popularity as the 15th. With 800 million viewers, the World Cup XV ranks among the top 10 most-watched events worldwide.

Why is this French competition more than just a sporting event?

France made compelling financial arguments to win this competition. Above all, the likelihood of record earnings, which are expected to be 135 million higher than those from the 2015 World Cup, is a 40% increase. This is crucial for World Rugby because the organization that controls the sport depends on the money generated by this occasion. Currently, allegations of favoritism surrounding the ticket sales, the removal of the federation president, Bernard Laporte, and the head of the organizing committee, Claude Atcher, stain this organization. However, it must demonstrate France’s capacity to organize a significant event less than a year before the Olympics.

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